The Press gives Tim Carter top marks

July 29th, 2013 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

The Press reports:

A first-term councillor has emerged as the top performer in The Press pre-election assessment of Christchurch City councillors.

Cr Tim Carter has been awarded an A- grade for his tenacity in questioning the council’s business-as-usual approach and for pushing for greater transparency and accountability.

Despite only being elected to the council in 2010 Carter has made a big impact, but he looks set to depart local body politics in October as he has indicated he is unlikely to seek re-election for personal reasons.
 
The three next highest performing councillors, as ranked by The Press after hundreds of hours of observation, were councillors Sue Wells, Claudia Reid and Peter Beck, all of whom earned a B+.

The article has a useful feature where you can see how various Councillors have voted on different issues. Would love the Dom Post to do that for the WCC.

Their overall ratings are:

  • Tim Carter A-
  • Peter Beck B+
  • Claudia Reid B+
  • Sue Wells B+
  • Ngaire Button B
  • Aaron Keown B
  • Jamie Gough B
  • Glenn Livingstone B
  • Yani Johanson B
  • Barry Corbett B-
  • Jimmy Chen C+
  • Sally Buck C
  • Helen Broughton C
Tags: ,

GCSB views

July 26th, 2013 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

The Press editorial:

Contrary to the assertions of opposition parties, the changes Prime Minister John Key has made to the Government Communications Security Bureau bill are not merely cosmetic.

Among other things, the changes will require the GCSB to make an annual report on the number of warrants and access authorisations it gets and pro-actively tell the inspector-general of intelligence, whose post has itself been beefed up, whenever it has acquired a warrant to spy on a New Zealand citizen or resident.

In addition, while rejecting the opposition call for an inquiry now into the GCSB, the bill will require a review of its operations, and those of the Security Intelligence Service, the domestic spy agency, a couple of years from now and thereafter every five to seven years.

The GCSB will also have to make an annual report on the number of times it has been called on to help the police, the SIS and other agencies use its specialised surveillance equipment.

If any expansion is required of the agencies that can call on the assistance of the GCSB, new legislation will be needed rather than, as had been proposed, merely executive action. The Prime Minister has also promised to make it clear that the collection of metadata – information about the time and location of a call rather than its content – will be treated as communication and require a search warrant.

All these changes make substantial modifications to the bill as it was first presented to Parliament. While they have not been enough to persuade opposition parties to support the bill, they are sufficient to satisfy Peter Dunne, formerly a strong critic of the bill, which means it will pass.

I agree that the changes are not inconsequential. I note that Labour seem unable to articulate what actual changes to the bill would make it acceptable to them. I think they just hope this will be finally be the silver bullet that gets them out of the poll doldrums. Bit sadly for them, people are more interested in policies on jobs, hospitals and schools than this.

Pete George points out the recent protest action against the bill was organised by Mana’s Martyn Bradbury and Greens’ Max Coyle. I think it is safe to conclude both fall into the camp of would never ever support something done by this Government. The meeting they organised was interesting though:

Labour MP David Cunliffe sat in the front row last night. His party leader, David Shearer, watched unnoticed from the rear of the hall with Labour’s finance spokesman, David Parker.

However the Herald disagrees with The Press and wants more changes. However they also say the changes are substantial:

The Government Communications Security Bureau and Related Legislation Amendment Bill will be an improved piece of legislation when it is amended by Parliament. The changes go much further than the “cosmetic” tag attached by the Greens. Two stand out. The first dictates that the country’s foreign intelligence agency will be the subject of an independent review in 2015 and an automatic review every five to seven years after that. A five-year review echoes the situation in Australia. It also goes quite some way towards satisfying the call by Labour and the Greens for an independent inquiry into the country’s security services, even if they wanted this to precede the passage of the legislation.

The second important alteration states that if a government wants to expand the domestic agencies which the GCSB will be able to help beyond the police, the Security Intelligence Service and the Defence Force, it will have to get the support of Parliament for another amendment bill, rather than Cabinet simply ticking it off via regulation. That negates the possibility of the likes of Customs, the Immigration Department or Inland Revenue using the GCSB’s sophisticated cybersecurity equipment without a considered debate on the ramifications. 

I think that last change was very important.

According to the Prime Minister, the bill represents “a balancing act between national security and doing our best to keep New Zealanders safe, and the privacy of New Zealanders”. Considerable reservations voiced earlier this month by the Privacy Commissioner, the Human Rights Commissioner and the Law Society confirmed the first draft fell far short of this objective. The changes in the bill as reported back yesterday and those achieved by Mr Dunne improve that situation somewhat. It is a real shame, however, that they do not go further. The public deserves stronger reassurance.

In another story the Herald notes a further change:

The activities that the GCSB undertake in assisting the police will be subject to review by the Independent Police Complaints Authority under changes to the GCSB bill, which was reported back to Parliament this afternoon by the Intelligence and Security Committee.

It is one of the few changes to the bill in the committee’s report that has not been previously announced.

A further useful addition.

Tags: , , ,

Gender quotas still go for Labour

July 10th, 2013 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Vernon Small at Stuff reports:

David Shearer has pushed the Labour Party into dumping its controversial “man ban” proposal that could have preserved some electorates for women-only candidates, but a related move to ensure that by 2017 at least 50 per cent of its MPs are women is set to go ahead.

This is the policy that if used in the past, would have seen Labour gain no male List MPs in 1996, 1999 and 2002.  Michael Cullen would have failed to be elected as an  List MP, under this proposal. Daft.

But the party’s stance on the party list remit appears to have caused confusion among MPs with some saying the effective “quota” had also been dropped, while others said there was no change to the proposal.

A spokesman for Mr Shearer later confirmed it was unchanged at this stage.

It says a lot when Labour’s own MPs don’t even know what the situation is.

Mr Shearer announced the U-turn on the “man ban” rule ahead of the party’s weekly caucus of MPs that insiders said was at times acrimonious, with supporters of the move targeting list MP Shane Jones in particular over his comments.

That would be the gelding comment.

That, in turn, sparked a flurry of rumours late on Monday about a possible leadership spill, emanating from both the Left and the “blokes” wings of the party.

Labour has more factions than MPs!

The Press editorial comments:

To hoots of derision from almost every quarter, the Labour Party’s proposal to exclude men from consideration for selection as candidates in some electorates – the so-called “man ban” – has been ditched.

The wonder, of course, is not that it was ditched, but rather that an proposal so maladroit ever saw the light of day with a party endorsement in the first place, and, having done so, that it took some time before Labour leader David Shearer could find his voice and move to quash it.

They’ve known about this for eight months!

The whole fiasco surrounding the proposal was another indication of division and disarray within Labour. It somehow gained the endorsement of the party’s national council as an idea for discussion at the national conference without Shearer, who is a member of the council, being aware of it. Even if he was not present at the council meeting that discussed it, he should have been able to rely on the good sense of his colleagues to scupper an idea that was such an obvious non-starter.

Then, by some unexplained misfortune, the idea leaked into the public arena by way of a popular blog deeply unsympathetic to Labour. Then, rather than seize the initiative and rapidly scotch the proposal, Shearer ducked reporters’ questions, dodged television interviews and dithered until yesterday, when the matter was finally laid to rest.

It is hardly original to note that if this is the way the party conducts its own affairs, it will need to work a lot harder to present itself as a potential alternative government.

Could you imagine them having to respond to a disaster like the Christchurch earthquake? Would it take them five days to agree to comment on it?

Tags: , , ,

The Press on Shearer

July 1st, 2013 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

The Press editorial:

Shearer’s concerns are the more immediate. An opinion poll last week delivering a dismal ranking for both the party and Shearer personally was devastating to Labour. With National halfway into a less than easy second term, Labour was hoping that by now it would be shaping up much better. Shearer is not helped by his backers saying that if the poll results were converted to seats the party would be doing a little better than it had at the last election, because, as the critics point out, that election was a catastrophe for Labour.

Inspired by the brutal rolling of Julia Gillard across the Tasman, and keenly aware that the procedure here for Labour to remove its leader is much more drawn out and cumbersome, some in the party are saying that Shearer must start to do better by spring or be replaced.

We know this because one or more Labour MPs has spoken to both the One News and 3 News political editors. In fact it looks like more than one MP according to Q+A:

JESSICA Some of the MPs that we’ve been talking to behind the scenes this week have said two months is-

DAVID Well, nobody’s spoken to me about it, and I can tell you, I’d like to know who the MP is.

Not a good look to have to ask a reporter who is briefing against you!

JESSICA Is it hard not having the support completely of your caucus?

DAVID Look, I have the support of my caucus. I mean, the fact that you’ve spoken to one anonymous person, and I haven’t heard of any-

JESSICA I’ve actually spoken to several people.

That should ring some alarm bells. However I think Shearer will remain safe, so long as the ABC faction thinks there is a chance Cunliffe could win a ballot in case of a vacancy.

Tags: , , ,

Who is The Press scaring off?

June 20th, 2013 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Press Deputy Editor writes:

Lianne Dalziel is good for Bob Parker, and vice versa. It seems an odd argument, but each needs the other to validate whatever comes of the Christchurch mayoral election.

The point was made eloquently by city councillor Peter Beck when he announced in March that he would soon retire, and expressed a wish that the coming contest should be a “two-horse race”.

“My hope is that there is one, and only one, seriously credible alternative [to Mayor Parker] so that the city has a clear choice,” Beck said then. “That is good for democracy. It is good for both candidates. Whoever is elected will then hopefully carry a real mandate of the people.”

With respect, Cr Beck said that because he didn’t want Parker winning against a split vote. Nothing to do with mandate.

Voters should not pay too much attention to the party politics in this election.

Good God. Just ignore the fact she has spent two years demanding the Minister resign.

Both Parker and Dalziel have considerable strengths. The real danger here is that a credible third candidate will declare and deny ratepayers the chance to make a proper decision between the two. It would not help the city if a mayor was elected at this important time who did not command a clear majority of votes cast.

Such a credible third candidate would be perfectly entitled to stand, but should carefully consider his or her motives for doing so before declaring.

This is the bizarre part. I’m not sure I can recall a NZ newspaper before imploring people not to stand for office, let alone almost threatening them that they will be seen as having bad motives if they do stand.

How incredibly arrogant to declare that Parker and Dalziel must be the only choices and that a credible third candidate is a “danger” who will hinder a “proper” decision. I’d suggest many people in Christchurch would love to have a credible third candidate as they are so thoroughly depressed by the prospects of either Parker or Dalziel.

Tags: , , ,

Editorials lash Norman

June 5th, 2013 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Dom Post editorial:

If Russel Norman’s purpose in likening John Key to former prime minister Sir Robert Muldoon was to demonstrate that the Green Party is now as eager to make personal attacks as other political parties, his speech to the Green Party’s annual conference in Christchurch should be judged a triumph.

And their problem is one you lose a brand attribute, it is very hard to get it back. If the Greens ever again proclaim they don’t do personal attacks, people will and should laugh.

If, on the other hand, the Australian-born and educated co-leader of the environmental party was attempting to convince voters he shares their experiences, it was an abysmal failure.

When Muldoon was Prime Minister, Norman was running around Australia promoting Marxism.

However, to suggest Mr Key’s personal style is akin to that of Sir Robert is to do nothing but betray ignorance.

The two could not be more different. Sir Robert was a micro-manager; Mr Key delegates. Sir Robert snarled; Mr Key smiles. Sir Robert banned journalists from press conferences, insulted foreign leaders and once punched a demonstrator outside a meeting. Mr Key occasionally gets a little tetchy.

“Divisive and corrosive” Sir Robert certainly was, although, ironically, his command and control approach to running the economy was probably closer to Green Party policy than anything seen since he was voted out of office in 1984.

That’s a good point. Many of the economic policies of the Greens are Muldoonist.

The curious thing about Dr Norman’s attack is that it is he who has resorted to the Muldoonist tactic of attacking the man and Mr Key who has responded by playing the issue.

The Press editorial is similar:

The strident personal attack by the co-leader of the Greens, Russel Norman, on Prime Minister John Key at the weekend may have gone down well with the 100 or so faithful he was addressing at a party conference in Christchurch.

But to most others, even those on the Left, it will have seemed strikingly ill-judged. It introduced an unpleasant personal note not heard since the days, oddly enough, of Robert Muldoon, the man whose name he invoked to make an invidious comparison with the present prime minister.

Both editorials have concluded that it was Norman, not Key, who was exhibiting Muldoon type qualities. That’s some political genius to achieve that.

Norman can perhaps be forgiven for not understanding the truly corrosive nature of many of Muldoon’s actions – the nasty personal attacks on political opponents, the shatteringly divisive Springbok tour, the disastrous economic policies, the final unwillingness to relinquish power after political defeat. Norman did not come to New Zealand until five years after Muldoon’s death and 23 years after he fell from power. But the memory of the toxic nature of much of what happened under Muldoon is still strong to those who lived through it, and to many who heard of it later. And they know perfectly well that nothing done by the present Government can remotely be compared.

So why did he do it? Desperation?

It suggests, too, that Norman is not entirely confident that he can make electoral headway on policies alone. The Greens in recent months have made a lot of the running on Opposition policy, particularly economic policy, so much so that a pollster asked a question suggesting that Norman was Bill English’s opposite number on finance rather than Labour’s finance spokesman, David Parker. Much of this (a radical loosening of monetary policy, a government-run electricity market) along with Labour’s own policies (government housing projects), has been seen by many analysts as taking the Opposition on a lurch to the Left.

The latest opinion polls, which showed little reaction to the policies, disappointed the Opposition. The answer to that disappointment should not, however, be a resort to personal attack. That really would be an undesirable step down the slippery track toward Muldoonism.

Imagine what he would be like if he got to be Finance Minister!

Tags: , , , , ,

Was the Parker rumour a dirty trick?

June 3rd, 2013 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

NewstalkZB reports:

Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker says a report he is standing down at this year’s local body elections is a ‘complete fantasy’.

Today’s Sunday Star-Times suggests Mr Parker will exit the mayoral race.

So far, he is the only candidate to confirm he’s standing.

Bob Parker says while he enjoys a work of fiction, he believes in Christchurch and wants to be part of its future.

There are two questions here.

The first is whether the rumour just started as organic speculation, or was it a destabilising dirty trick?

The second is why the The Press ran the story? Parker denied it on the record to him. If a rumour is denied emphatically, how is it newsworthy?

Tags: ,

The Press on the next 1,000 days

May 31st, 2013 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The Press has two nifty features on this story.

At the top of the page they have  a recovery meter showing the percentage completed for various recovery tasks such as home reparis, EQC claims and payouts, infrastructure rebuilds, demolitions and opening of the red zone.

Down the bottom they have a calendar of likely future events.

Tags: , ,

Press says Parata listened

May 24th, 2013 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

The Press editorial:

The proposal that the Minister of Education, Hekia Parata, put forward yesterday for changes to five schools in the eastern suburbs is a compromise and will not please everyone.

It does, however, demonstrate that the minister has been prepared, as she promised, to listen to the submissions made to her from the community and to change her mind in some areas. The consultation process will continue – the schools still have 28 days to respond to this interim proposal before Parata will announce a final decision.

I’d say the Government has been very flexible and accommodating with its decisions around Christchurch schools. Around 25% of initial decisions have changed.

It is a pity that this level of consultation was not undertaken before rather than after the appallingly mishandled initial announcement for the reorganisation of Christchurch schools was made last year.

Yep. That poisoned the well. The primary fault lay with the Ministry, but the Minister is responsible and should not have just left it to the Ministry to do.

So far as the eastern suburbs were concerned, Parata originally proposed that five schools – Aranui School, Avondale School, Wainoni School, Chisnallwood Intermediate and Aranui High School – be combined at the Aranui High site to create one school that would take pupils from year 1 to year 13.

The idea was to take account of the fact that many of those schools had facilities and grounds that were damaged and had suffered sharp declines in enrolments that were expected to continue, probably for several years.

Parata’s new proposal is to combine four schools, leaving Chisnallwood Intermediate to continue to operate separately. This compromise, if it goes ahead, will please Chisnallwood, which strongly opposed the original proposal, but will disappoint Avondale, which also did not want to join with the other eastern schools.

It should also please Aranui, Wainoni and Aranui High, since it largely reflects their submission to Parata that they have a similar spirit, were a natural fit and should unite at the Aranui High School site.

Leaving Chisnallwood out of the new proposal makes sense. A very large proportion of its enrolment already comes from outside its zone. If it had been combined with the other schools, most of those pupils would almost certainly not have gone to the new site.

Does seem sensible.

Yesterday’s announcement leaves 17 still to hear final decisions on whether they will merge or close by the end of this month.

After the uproar at the beginning, the ending is much less tumultuous. To some degree, that must be because of the intensive discussions that have taken place in the interim.

If Parata deserved blame for the botchup at the beginning, she deserves some credit for being prepared to listen and if necessary change her proposals since then.

A fair editorial.

Tags: , , ,

The Press on Judging the Judges

May 11th, 2013 at 9:38 am by David Farrar

The Press editorial:

The new website developed by the Sensible Sentencing Trust inviting the public to “judge the judges” has attracted more alarmed comment than it warrants.

Critics of the site worry about its focus on individual judges and fret that it may encourage contemptuous or defamatory attacks on judges. These concerns are overwrought.

As it is set up at present, the site is relatively innocuous and to the extent that it gives greater publicity to judges’ decisions and sentencing notes may do some good. …

Instead, the site presents a number of criminal cases in which, in the opinion of the site’s organisers, judges have given either particularly lenient or particularly commendable sentences to offenders.

Along with the Sensible Sentencing Trust’s critique of the sentence, the site also presents a link to the Ministry of Justice website so readers can form their own opinions from what the judge has said in his or her judgment and sentencing notes.

Those readers who bother to follow the links and read those documents will gain as good an insight as possible into the many competing, and often irreconcilable, factors that judges must take into account in trying to produce a just result in the cases before them.

I agree that the links to the case notes are a useful service.

While the website itself may be an incentive to redneck, talkback-style instant outcry about the leniency of this or that sentence, by making the official documents more widely available it also provides some antidote to it.

The silliest argument against a site critiquing judges’ decisions is that judges cannot answer back. The response to that is that they do not need to – their judgments speak for themselves, which is why judgments should be promptly available.

If further publicity is needed to protect a judge from unfair criticism, the Ministry of Justice has a large enough PR department to see it is done and in extreme cases there is nothing to inhibit the Attorney-General or Minister of Justice from speaking.

It will be interesting to see how many more cases end up on the site.

Tags: , , ,

The Press on a serious offenders register

May 8th, 2013 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Press editorial:

The suggestion by the Minister of Justice, Judith Collins, that public registers be set up to provide open and easy access to the criminal record of serious offenders is one that will be welcomed by many people. Such information is widely and freely available already from the proliferation in the last decade or so of websites including news and information sites, and by organisations like the Sensible Sentencing Trust. But, because of the limited resources of those news and other organisations, the information those sites contain is inevitably piecemeal and patchy. An authoritative and accurate official record would plainly be of much greater benefit.

I agree. Perhaps the threshold for inclusion could be a strike offence?

Criminal convictions are already a matter of public record. Access to the record, however, is not easy. The police, for instance, in most circumstances cannot, because of rules governing the disclosure of information from police computers and concerns about privacy, reveal them. A properly maintained official register would cut through the thicket of difficulties to provide the information more readily.

It may be argued that a register of convictions, by being forever available on the internet, would make it harder for a criminal to live down his or her past and become rehabilitated. The fact is that that is occurring to a certain extent anyway. The register, as Collins suggests it, would be concerned only with serious offences, the kinds of things already covered by news media and suchlike websites. Those websites are very long-lived and can be searched without much trouble by Google. But the media cannot cover everything, even serious crime. An official register would remove the randomness in them in that it would cover all serious offences, not just those the media deem newsworthy, and it should be less subject to error.

If the Government does not set up a register, then those run by groups such as the SST will become more and more authoritative in the absence of anything else.

It may also help deter offending. Contrary to popular opinion, criminals respond to incentives as much as anyone else. Offenders, once they come to know that it will not be so easy to conceal their past crimes, will be less inclined to commit them in the first place.

Fewer crimes and fewer victims would be a good thing.

Tags: , ,

The Press Power List

May 4th, 2013 at 9:18 am by David Farrar

The Press has published its power list for Christchurch. As with all lists, they are just the opinions of the four people who compiled the list (two of whom are constant critics of the Government) but nevertheless an interesting list:

  1. PM John Key
  2. CERA Minister Gerry Brownlee
  3. Ngai Tahu Chairman Mark Solomon
  4. EQC CEO Ian Simpson
  5. ECan Chair Dame Margaret Bazley
  6. CERA CEO Roger Sutton
  7. The Press Editor Joanna Norris
  8. IAG CEO Jacki Johnson
  9. Tertiary Education Minister Steven Joyce
  10. Education Minister Hekia Parata
  11. Fonterra CEO Theo Spierings
  12. Cant Employers CEO Peter Townsend
  13. Chch Central Dev Unit Director Warwick Isaacs
  14. Civic Assurance CEO Tim Sole
  15. Chch City Council CEO Tony Marryatt
  16. Chch Mayor Bob Parker
  17. Chch East MP Lianne Dalziel
  18. SCIRT Chairman Mark Ford
  19. The Gough Family
  20. The Carter Family

As the Government is spending $15 billion of taxpayers money on rebuilding Christchurch, it should be little surprise that central Government figures are more influential than usual.

 

Tags: ,

Editorials on Syria

April 29th, 2013 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The Press editorial:

The United States and the international community have to respond to a suspected nerve gas attack by Syrian government forces on civilians in Aleppo.

If the attack is confirmed – and it seems likely that it has happened – President Bashar al-Assad’s regime cannot be allowed to get away with this atrocity.

The trouble is there are no good solutions, just a variety of different intensity bad ones.

The difficulty for the West is that any imaginable military response is dangerously complicated. Even a no-fly zone over Syria, which would work to the obviously military advantage of the rebels battling Assad’s forces, cannot be easily enforced.

Assad is believed to have 600 fixed surface-to-air missile sites and about 300 mobile units, some of which would survive any first strike by US cruise missiles or planes flying from the Royal Air Force base in Cyprus. Putting Assad’s anti-aircraft capability out of action could be difficult and costly.

Most can be destroyed easily enough, but enough would survive to take down some aircraft. However if drones are used, the loss of life to US or NATO forces could be minimised.

If the chemical attack is confirmed, Assad has to go. Any regime which carries out nerve gas attacks on its own civilian population has lost all pretence of legitimacy.

The trouble is the alternatives are not overly appealing.

The Dom Post urges caution:

Barack Obama warned Syria that if it used nerve gas against its people it would “cross a red line”. The president meant that if the Assad regime was guilty of such a war crime, the United States would have to do something.

And now the evidence is mounting that Assad might have used sarin. And so now the president is in a difficult position, largely of his own making.

It would be easy to scorn Mr Obama over this. It would be easy to interpret his hyper-caution as shillyshallying and even cowardice. It would be easy to demand he stick to his word and start bombing. Predictably, some senior American politicians are now urging him to do so.

I don’t think he should bomb, but I think he was stupid to talk about a red line, and not be prepared for what to do if it is crossed.

Tags: , , ,

The Press on open road speed limits

April 1st, 2013 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Press editorial:

For as long as many people can remember, the open-road speed limit for driving in this country has not changed. It has not increased significantly since the late 1960s when it was raised, under the old imperial system, from 55 miles per hour to 60mph – the equivalent of 96kmh, so not significantly different than the 100kmh that applies today on highways and motorways.

Umm, that is missing out a big chunk of history. The open road limit may have been 60 miles per hours, but in 1973 due to oil shocks, it dropped to 80 km/hr or 50 miles/hr.

It was only in 1986 it went to 100 km/hr.

So far from the open road limit rarely changing, the changes have been:

  • 1962 – from 50 mph to 55 mph
  • 1969 – from 55 mph to 60 mph
  • 1973 – from 60 mph to 50 mph or 80 kmh
  • 1986 – from 80 kmh to 100 kmh

Consider the cars that Kiwis were driving when the speed limit was last raised.

There is a world of difference between the engineering and safety standards of 21st-century cars and the likes of the Morris Minor, the original Mini, the Ford Cortina, the Holden Kingswood, the Rover 2000 and the Hillman Imp. Road engineering, too, has improved during those decades. Seen in this context, a proposal to raise the limit by only 10kmh on a relatively small number of top roads can be seen as very modest.

The difference in car safety and engineering is massive.

The speed limit is a maximum, not a target, and the rules – so often observed mainly in the breach – state that people should drive at a speed under the limit that is appropriate to the road, traffic, weather and other conditions.

If the speed limit is increased on engineered motorways, this should not be taken as an indication to drive at 110km on the open road or rural highways, where a 110kmh speed limit would not be appropriate.

Yep – drive the the conditions. Sometimes that will be 110 km/h and sometimes 70 km/h.

Tags: , , ,

Lame, even for Peters

March 25th, 2013 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Press editorial:

By Winston Peters’ admittedly not very high standards the questions he raised in Parliament this week about alleged fraud and corruption in the earthquake recovery were terribly thin stuff.

If they were intended to embarrass the Minister for Earthquake Recovery, Gerry Brownlee, they were so lacking in specifics the minister easily brushed them off.

Even if, as is more likely, they were intended for no more elevated purpose than to get Peters’ name into the news and along the way to make a casual smear and raise vague conspiratorial suggestions of corruption, they were not up to much.

They never are, but I agree these allegations were even lamer than most.

Tags: , ,

The Press editorial on housing

March 1st, 2013 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The Press editorial:

Getting a clear and accurate picture of the housing market in Christchurch since the earthquakes is not easy.

Anecdotal accounts of a shortage of houses available to rent or buy and of rocketing prices abound, but there have been few hard figures about the wider reality.

The problem with this is that alarmist talk risks generating its own reality and will certainly spread unnecessary despondency.

That would be a pity for an investigation, published by The Press this week, shows that in fact, while the housing market in Christchurch has become more competitive and rents and prices have risen affecting low-income families in particular, talk of a general “housing crisis” is not borne out. …

The suggestion by some that a few desperate cases of hardship represented a wider crisis was not accurate.

The best way to help with the rental challenges is to get more houses built.

Tags: , ,

Editorials on Chch schools

February 19th, 2013 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The Press editorial:

The big reduction in the number of schools being forced to close or merge, announced by Education Minister Hekia Parata yesterday, is more than welcome. It ends the anxiety of the many Christchurch people who faced their most cherished community asset being torn from them or drastically altered, reduces pupil and parent fears and gives teachers more certainty about their jobs.

The Government should be congratulated for at last properly consulting people about the plan and for taking heed of concerns. Even greater congratulations should go to the schools, parents and supporters for gathering the facts and ensuring that the Government took them aboard. This was a demonstration of people power at its constructive best.

There is nothing as good as winning an argument by having the facts on your side.

Now it emerges that much of that outpouring was avoidable had the Ministry of Education built its plans on sure facts and consulted more effectively before the wholesale announcement. Had it done so, the first plan would have been something like that now proposed and would not have hit the city like a load of lead. People would have been much more accepting of change because they would have been informed about its need and contributed to its detail.

It is clear the original proposals were not just communicated badly, but were in some cases based on faulty info. The Herald touches on this also:

The outcry that greeted the announcement of the plan in September made its revision inevitable. The revised version appeared yesterday. Instead of closures and mergers of schools across the city the closures now appear to be confined to areas worst hit by the earthquakes or where rolls had been in steepest decline.

While there is anguish in any school that has to close – and the date has been set sooner for them under the revised plan – some of them had to go. The city’s schools had a combined capacity for about 5000 more pupils than attended them before the earthquakes and its school-age population had dropped by a further 4300 by July last year.

It is hard to argue that nothing should change at all, based on the surplus of 9,300 places.

If the original plan had been confined to those sorts of areas it would probably not have incurred the wrath and derision it received. But somewhere in the higher echelons of education, the earthquake was seen as an opportunity to redesign schooling as we have known it in this country. The whole of Christchurch was to be a template for “something different and innovative to support improved outcomes in education”.

The ministry’s document talked of “shared campuses” for everything from early childhood to tertiary education, and educational institutions that would comprise not just schools but “dental clinics, doctors’ surgeries, mental health and other support services such as counsellors, social workers and therapists”.

To this end, the planners hoped to knock down and rebuild much more public property than had suffered serious damage.

The original plan was based on the “ideal” but failed to take account of how disruptive change can be. The revised plan appears to be based on necessity where change is minimised unless there is little alternative.

Tags: , , , ,

The Press on Bain report

December 13th, 2012 at 9:41 am by David Farrar

The Press editorial:

Collins’ announcement explaining why she had sought the review was candid, even sharp, but in the circumstances reasonable. The fact that she has had Binnie’s report since September had raised expectations that the matter would be put before the Cabinet and a decision announced before Christmas. It has also become well known, and has not been denied, that the report is favourable to Bain. The reasons for the delay needed to be explained and Collins did so in a characteristically forthright style.

It is worth noting that Collins did not seek publicity. It was in response to media inquiries that her statement was released as to why she sought a peer review. The announcement of Fisher was not made public, but inevitably leaked out.

Binnie’s report, she said, appeared to contain “assumptions based on incorrect facts, . . . showed a misunderstanding of New Zealand law . . . and lacked a robustness of reasoning used to justify its conclusions”. Binnie, perhaps unused from his lengthy term on Canada’s highest court to such direct comment, was stung by Collins’ remarks into responding. It was an unwise move.

By convention, judges never comment on their decisions once they are delivered. The decisions are taken to contain all the facts and reasoning required to be able to speak for themselves. Binnie is no longer a judge, of course, but in this procedure he is acting as one. Once he had delivered his report to Collins in September the function for which he was hired was over and he should have remained aloof from anything that ensued, whatever it was. It is unseemly and undignified of him to get into the mud and the dust of the political arena in the way he has done.

I think his response was a massive mistake. If he has confidence in his report, he should let that speak for itself.

If nothing else, it raises misgivings about his judgment. Fourteen long paragraphs in response to a terse couple of sentences from the minister looks weirdly disproportionate. In addition, questionable statements Binnie makes, particularly concerning the alleged views of the Privy Council on Bain’s guilt or innocence, look faulty enough to suggest that Collins’ doubts about the report are well-founded.

Again, I agree.

Collins said yesterday she was considering releasing the report along with the review of it this week. She says that both should be released together. While that would be ideal, she should go ahead and release Binnie’s report (both the original and the two subsequent versions that Binnie has given her unsolicited) whether the review is ready or not. The tumult is not going to die down, and rumour and surmise will fill the vacuum if she delays.

I understand there is a reasonable chance both the Binnie report/s and the Fisher report will be released tomorrow.

Also of note is this exchange in question time:

CHARLES CHAUVEL (Labour) to the Minister of Justice: What are the specific “assumptions” based on “incorrect facts” demonstrating some “misunderstanding of New Zealand law” that she alleges are contained in the report of Justice Binnie concerning the application by Mr Bain for compensation for wrongful conviction and imprisonment?

Hon JUDITH COLLINS (Minister of Justice) : I stated in my media release that “My concerns are broadly that the report appeared to contain assumptions based on incorrect facts, and showed a misunderstanding of New Zealand law.” Prior to giving examples, I need to give just a little bit of context to this. I can advise the House that an independent peer review of the first Binnie advice is being done by the Hon Robert Fisher QC, and I am considering the public request made by Mr Bain’s supporters to release both these reports—or advice to me—before Cabinet has made its decision. One of the things I am considering is whether or not it is going to be in Mr Bain’s interests or in the interests of justice to do so. But in relation to the examples sought, there are many. I will give the House two of those. The first is relying on incorrect understanding of what has been given in evidence. In this case, Justice Binnie asserts that a named scientist testified at the first trial that he had chemically enhanced the prints and later sought to resile from this. The reference to chemical enhancement was an error on a label attached to a fingerprint, and this was explained as such by the named scientist at the retrial. A second example is in relation to assumptions as to the correctness of submissions on the law. Justice Binnie appears to have assumed to be correct Mr Karam’s submission that the adverse inferences should be drawn against the Crown case on the basis of evidence that is no longer available. This is incompatible with the onus of proof being on Mr Bain in this particular case, because this is, in fact, a request for Cabinet to use its discretion, and that is very clearly wrong.

Again, the reports will be interesting.

Tags: , , , ,

The Press on Bain

December 5th, 2012 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

The Press editorial:

The report has not been made public but it has been widely reported that retired Canadian judge Justice Ian Binnie found Bain was innocent, on the balance of probabilities, of the murders and that he should receive compensation. Supporters of Bain have suggested that Collins dislikes this result and is shopping around for an opinion she agrees with.

That is unfair. The decision on compensation will be a highly contentious and political one, whichever way it goes. If she has misgivings about the report she has been given, it is entirely proper that Collins should seek further advice before she makes any recommendation to her Cabinet colleagues.

Some people have suggested that the second report is because there is some damning criticism of govt agencies in the first report that the Govt wants to hide. But as far as I know, there is no question that the Binnie report will be released. Just, that the Fisher report will also be released.

The task of assessing this was, surprisingly, outsourced by an earlier Minister of Justice, Simon Power, to Canada’s Justice Binnie. The aim was to get an opinion from someone entirely outside the New Zealand justice system but it was odd, particularly in light of the fact that New Zealand had not long before ended one of the last vestiges of colonial practice by abolishing final appeals to the Privy Council in London. There are few people who would dissent from the view that it was right to establish the Supreme Court and make the entire justice system a domestic one.

To seek a foreign opinion in one of the most celebrated cases of the century looks like a strange and unjustified loss of confidence in the integrity of those who serve in that system. It is difficult to believe that it was impossible to find a retired judge within the country with the intellect and the integrity to be able to deliver a sound decision. That is, in fact, what Collins will be seeking from the man to whom she has now referred the matter, Robert Fisher QC, a former judge of the High Court and widely recognised as one of New Zealand’s pre-eminent legal minds.

The 73 year old Binnie did serve on the Canadian Supreme Court, but it is worth noting he didn’t serve on any lower court before that appointment. That means he would probably never have presided over a criminal trial, and his background is business and corporate law – not criminal law. That doesn’t mean his report is not credible or thorough or sound – but it is worth noting that not all retired judges are equally experienced in all areas.

My default position is that the Govt should go with Binnie’s recommendation. But that is contingent on the quality of his report. By that, I don’t mean his conclusion – but whether all the evidence was considered, that the report complied with the terms of reference, that natural justice was followed etc. I can’t wait to read both the Binnie and Fisher reports.

Tags: , ,

The Press on Leveson inquiry

December 3rd, 2012 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

The Press editorial:

The British tabloid press at its worst has never been a pretty thing to contemplate.

Hyper-competitive, unscrupulous, concerned more to get something that might be tricked up as a “scoop” no matter who got trampled on in the process, its unlovely ways have often been deplored. When British Prime Minister David Cameron appointed a Court of Appeal judge, Lord Justice Leveson, to conduct an inquiry into the operation of newspapers and to suggest how they might be better regulated, it was the seventh inquiry in 70 years to traverse much the same ground. When the inquiry was set up the papers’ reputation could hardly have been lower and nine months of hearings, in which some 337 witnesses were heard and 300 more gave statements, have done nothing to improve it. Despite all that, Leveson’s principal recommendation, for tougher regulation supported by law, is unlikely to be acted upon, and for very good reason.

I think there will be tougher regulation, but I don’t think it will be statutory regulation.

At the end of it all, Leveson found one of the central allegations that had been made – that Cameron had become too cosy with the Murdoch empire and had tailored policy to suit it – was not made out. He further found much of the press excellent. But the judge also found Britain’s system of newspaper self-regulation weak and inadequate and he proposed a new, much stronger one, ostensibly independent and voluntary but in fact coercive, with powers to fine heavily and, most crucially, backed by statute.

In NZ broadcasters can be fined, but not print media.

Direct state control over newspapers has not existed in England for more than 300 years. The idea of putting at risk the hard-won freedoms developed over centuries because of the excesses of a few tabloids is rightly regarded as anathema. To his credit, Cameron immediately spotted the dangers and while accepting Leveson’s findings, he has rejected that part of his report. A strong and effective regulatory body is undoubtedly needed, but not one established by the state, no matter how far removed from the immediate grasp of politicians. The practically inevitable risk of further political meddling is too great.

I agree.

New Zealand does not have the tabloid rabble that London does. It is also fortunate in having in the Press Council an effective body to deal with complaints. A few months ago, though, the Law Commission, fretting about alleged problems with the web, proposed a new statutory body to regulate all media. It is not a good idea, nor is it necessary, and with luck it will go no further.

I agree there should not be a statutory body. However I do think the idea of one combined industry self-regulator for print, broadcast and online is sensible and the best way to stop state regulation would be for media to proactively start work towards a combined self-regulator with no gaps as currently exists.

UPDATE: Sean Plunket writes in the Dom Post:

This isn’t to say there is no bias in New Zealand media. There most certainly is at an individual and institutional level. Most often, it is unconscious or unwitting, incredibly hard to positively identify and virtually impossible to eradicate.

To attempt to do so by writing a new set of rules and regulations would be a waste of time. It would hamstring the majority of genuine journalists doing their best to inform their readers/viewers/listeners of the opinions and activities of our politicians.

Impartiality has always, and ever will be, an aspirational goal for the media but kidding ourselves that some code of conduct can ever actually achieve it is a vain hope.

Events in Britain, where media bias is generally accepted, are far more concerning. The issues there are not about how the fourth estate presents the news but how it gathers it. In the case of Rupert Murdoch’s empire it would seem the catch cry was “by any means necessary”.

I’m happy to say that in my 25 plus years in New Zealand media it is not the prevalent attitude here. I don’t know any Kiwi colleague who has bribed, hacked or blackmailed to get a story. The teapot tapes suggest some of us aren’t above a bit of covert surveillance but it is most certainly the exception rather than the rule.

The Leveson inquiry showed us that attitudes were different among a large sector of British media but despite the fact that I find that abhorrent, I think Mr Cameron is doing the right thing.

I have not detected any great enthusiasm for Leveson’s recommendation to have a statutory basis for media regulation.

Tags: , ,

Editorials all say early vote was a mistake

November 21st, 2012 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

All three major daily editorials say the early leadership vote was a mistake made under pressure.

The NZ Herald editorial yesterday:

… if he imagines the vote will see off a challenge from David Cunliffe he is already disappointed.

A more experienced leader would have dismissed any suggestion he should try to “call out” a challenge with an early vote. When a leader wins – as usually happens the first time – the question does not go away. It merely leaves the party divided and ensures the discontented faction will choose its moment to make another bid.

The Press today:

If David Shearer wishes to retain the leadership of the parliamentary Labour Party he should put aside any thoughts he may have for a surfing holiday this summer.

Yesterday, he obtained the support of the party caucus in a wholly unnecessary vote of confidence that he called. He also demoted his rival, David Cunliffe. His problem, however, is not his support in caucus but rather that in the wider party.

Since the weekend, Shearer’s supporters have been talking up his performance at the conference and it is true that the keynote speech Shearer gave on Sunday went down well amongst the faithful. But the bar had not been set very high. Preaching to a roomful of one’s most committed activists (and those who turn up for conferences are by definition the hard-core of the party) is not much of a test of a leader. Furthermore, no-one has ever doubted Shearer’s capacity to read a fully scripted, exhaustively rehearsed speech. It is his performance off the cuff that is the worry.

The performance at the post caucus press conference was not impressive and would have done little to reassure the doubters.

Because a leadership vote in February is mandatory, Shearer’s call for a vote of confidence yesterday was unnecessary. He was driven no doubt by the urge to be seen to do something. He also might have hoped he could put the question of a challenge behind him. Shearer, and his caucus supporters, want the matter over, but it is unlikely anything before February is going to end it.

There are 76 days to go before the real vote.

The Dominion Post editorial:

David Shearer has been reconfirmed as leader of the Labour Party. Given that even his caucus critics declared in advance their intention to vote for him that is hardly surprising.

However, far from being the resounding victory claimed by Mr Shearer’s cheerleaders, yesterday’s caucus vote served only to lay bare the deep divisions within the party. Those divisions are between the pragmatic, centrist MPs such as Phil Goff, Annette King and Trevor Mallard who have installed Mr Shearer as their standard bearer, and the wild-eyed idealists who forced a rule change through the party conference at the weekend enabling caucus malcontents to force a leadership vote in which party members and unions will have the final say.

It is more than about the leadership.

The reason Mr Shearer has not scrapped some of Labour’s sillier 2011 election promises is now apparent. Labour is in the midst of a power struggle between those who recognise that spending promises have to be paid for and those who do not understand that capital and skills are mobile. Increase taxes beyond a certain point and both will depart for greener pastures.

Neither yesterday’s vote nor the demotion of Mr Shearer’s putative challenger David Cunliffe to the backbenches resolves the question of Labour’s leadership. The real contest, if there is to be one, will come in February on ground not of Mr Shearer’s choosing.

Then, just 13 or 14 of Labour’s 34 MPs will be able to force a party-wide vote if they choose to.

If a party-wide vote is triggered, I don’t think Shearer would contest it. How could you? Imagine how hobbled you would be in the House having to take on the PM, while fighting for your political life. If a vote is triggered in February, then I’d say it would be Cunliffe vs Robertson.

Tags: , , , ,

Media on Shearer

November 15th, 2012 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Transtasman this week said:

Having demonstrated how not to have a leader of the opposition, the Labour Party is now demonstrating how not to have a coup to get rid of him. Watch and learn.

For the not having a leader of the opposition bit, the party has pretty much covered all the options this year, with only one exception: party leader David Shearer has never rounded on his party critics and told them to go and do something very difficult to themselves. His response has been more a hurt and injured look. This is novel, but it hasn’t worked. So now Labour, or some elements anyway, are endeavouring to get him to go quietly by using a Labour-aligned, anonymously written blog.

For those who have lives, it’s called The Standard, and it is written by Labour Party members who are also public servants, hence the anonymity. It’s mostly a poisonous waste of time, although if you want an insight into the thought processes of Labour-supporting public servants, it is quite an education.

All this meant was would be challengers David Cunliffe and Grant Robertson had to endorse their leader in public. It was a
highly qualified level of support.

Claiming they have “no immediate plans to challenge the leader” about as lukewarm as you can get.

I think some of the authors also work for unions!

Also worth listening to former Herald Editor Gavin Ellis on Radio NZ Nine to Noon. He says that The Standard authors were obviously used by factions in the Labour Party who want to see a change in the leadership.

And finally The Press editorial:

The loudest muttering against Shearer is being led by bloggers and columnists from the liberal Left. For the moment the caucus appears loyal, all possible contenders insisting they are 100 per cent behind him. That, however, should be regarded with considerable scepticism.

For a start, when Shearer got himself into a horrendous tangle with unsubstantiated allegations against Key over the Government Communications Security Bureau fuss, his colleagues took an awful long time to come to his defence. Further, if any plot to unseat him were going on, the plotters would obviously stay clandestine for as long as they could.

A factor inhibiting a coup is the lack of an alternative with predominating support. Of two possible contenders, David Cunliffe lost against Shearer last time and is widely regarded as too satisfied with himself by half and Grant Robertson is, for now at least, a Shearer loyalist.

It was lack of an obvious successor that kept Phil Goff in the leadership until the last election, but not many in Labour would regard that as an entirely happy precedent.

What surprises me is they gave Goff three years, yet some appear unwilling to give Shearer even 18 months.

Tags: , , , , ,

The Press on CCC

November 12th, 2012 at 9:26 am by David Farrar

The Press editorial:

The desire expressed recently by Mayor Bob Parker for Christchurch City Council to take back more control of the city’s affairs echoes the feelings of many Christchurch people. The mayor spoke of the matter two weeks ago, when he said he was looking forward to the council regaining control of the central business district from the Central Christchurch Development Unit “sooner rather than later”. While acknowledging the important role the Government had in the rebuild, the mayor said: “We think [the city centre rebuild] is something that should be driven by the people in the city and council.”

An understandable desire, but it is worth pointing out that most Councils are equipped to deal with one or two major projects at a time. Dealing with a rebuild of an entire city centre is to be blunt well beyond the resources and capability of a city council.

The greatest interference with the council’s functions, though, came from the creation of the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority as a government department and then later the CCDU as a unit within Cera to plan the reconstruction of the central city. This, according to Parker, has left the council’s elected representatives feeling “politically impotent” and accounts for the dysfunction (“so-called dysfunction”, according to Parker) on the council.

Here, Parker has got his analysis backwards. The creation of Cera did not cause ructions among otherwise efficient and smoothly functioning councillors to erupt. Cera was necessary for several compelling reasons. But one of them, surely, was a fear, among other things, that councillors would not be able to put aside their differences to face the mammoth task before the city without petty distractions.

Whatever the cause, councillors certainly proceeded to live down to expectations when in the midst of the calamity, and egged on by irresponsible outside elements, they plunged the depths of mindless backbiting and bitchery in an ultimately trivial row over the chief executive’s salary.

Exactly. The Council came close to being dismissed for their inability to function, as the backbiting was so extreme. Things have improved, but a long way to go.

Power over the city’s affairs will of course eventually be returned entirely to the council. So far as the CCDU is concerned, Parker is holding discussions with Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee. In order for him to be able to make a persuasive case, however, the council must show that it is capable of doing the job. Whether that is the case yet is far from clear. It is alarming, for instance, to hear that it is in danger of losing its accreditation as a building consents authority because of 17 identified shortcomings.

I think the saying is look after your own backyard first.

The fact the CEO thinks he can grant an extra 12 days paid leave to all Council staff without even informing the Mayor and Council of his intentions in advance, shows that there is still a fairly high degree of dysfunctionality.

Tags: , ,

The Press on GCSB

October 19th, 2012 at 11:06 am by David Farrar

The Press editorial:

In what is turning out to be the drawn-out saga of the extradition of Kim Dotcom, the role of the Government Communications Security Bureau may be a minor irrelevance, but it appears it is about to claim its first scalp.

A senior official is reported to have been placed on leave while an internal review is conducted at the bureau. Whether the official is in any way responsible for the acknowledged errors made by the GCSB, and if so what sanction, if any, there should be, will no doubt be determined by the review and, if they are found to be necessary, any subsequent employment hearings.

In the meantime, however, it is clear that there are indications that all is not well within the organisation.

There are four or five ways in which the GCSB hasn’t performed up to the standard expected. They are:

  • The original flawed legal analysis that they Dotcom was not a permanent resident
  • The lack of a clear process for acting on requests from Police
  • The resistance to change its view on the legality of the Dotcom interception for many months
  • Not taking immediate action to inform the Minister and Inspector-General when they first became aware of uncertainty over the legality
  • Taking two weeks to inform the Minister of the brief mention of Dotcom in a powerpoint presentation to him (It should have taken two hours not two weeks)

To his credit, Prime Minister John Key, the minister in charge of the GCSB, has not attempted to conceal its shortcomings. Unlike the normal practice when intelligence organisations make errors – blanket refusal to comment – Key has shown a level of candour unprecedented either in New Zealand or elsewhere. He has also ordered reviews to get to the bottom of the GCSB’s difficulties and install fresh oversight within the organisation.

If there are systemic problems in the GCSB they will not have happened overnight but, given the importance of its work, they must be fixed quickly.

My understanding is that the roasting has been of the superchargrilled variety.

The editorial is right that under Key, the level of candour has been unprecedented. Not just with the issue, but I recall that with the SAS in Afghanistan the previous Govt would often refuse to even state if they were out of the country at a particular point in time.

Tags: , ,

Good journalism

September 19th, 2012 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

A good example of the investigative journalism we need more of in NZ. Martin van Beynen at The Press reports:

The construction manager of the deadly Canterbury Television building stole the identity of a professional engineer and faked an engineering degree, an investigation has revealed.

Gerald Shirtcliff, now 67, supervised the construction of the CTV building which was finished in about October 1987. It collapsed on February 22 last year, taking the lives of 115 people, when Christchurch was hit by a 6.3 magnitude earthquake.

The Canterbury earthquakes royal commission has been told of a number of construction defects with the building, although Shirtcliff denies he had much to do with the site.

In evidence to the commission last month he claimed to be a “graduate engineer” and that he had been a supervisor on construction projects in South Africa. Inquiries by The Press, in Christchurch,  suggest these assertions are misleading.

Shirtcliff, who was educated at Rongotai College and left school to work in a Wellington bank, has lived off and on in Australia since about 1970 under the name William Anthony Fisher. …

A month-long investigation by The Press shows Shirtcliff in 1970 stole the identity of an English engineer called William Anthony Fisher, with whom he worked in South Africa in 1968 and 1969. Shirtcliff has lived as William Fisher in Australia for over 25 years, and now resides in Brisbane, driving a late-model Mercedes and enjoying a spacious house and a $200,000 motor launch.

When Shirtcliff left South Africa towards the end of 1969 to settle in Sydney he took on Fisher’s identity including his birthplace, birthdate and his bachelor of engineering from the University of Sheffield.

Shirtcliff then used the real Will Fisher’s BEng to gain entry into a masters programme at the University of New South Wales in 1971 and also to become a member of the Australian Institute of Engineers in 1972. As “Will Fisher” he was awarded a master of engineering science degree in highway engineering in April 1974.

He later worked as an engineer for a Sydney firm, then called MacDonald, Wagner and Priddle (to become Connell Wagner and then Aurecon), before returning to New Zealand in the mid-80s, to work under his Shirtcliff name.

In New Zealand he purported to be a “registered” engineer and at one time a “chartered” engineer.

Shirtcliff used his new identity on company documents and also to try to avoid extradition to New Zealand on the fraud allegations. He spent a week in a Brisbane jail in 2003 before conceding he was actually Gerald Shirtcliff.

A fascinating discovery which would have taken a lot of detective work.

Tags: , ,