Editorials 24 May 2010

The Herald applauds changes to per-school budgets:

One of the more contentious decisions hidden in the Budget last Thursday was in the financing of early childhood education. The previous Government gave childcare centres an incentive to employ trained teachers, increasing their grants as they hired a greater proportion of qualified staff.

The Budget has done away with two of the highest bands of subsidy, effectively cutting funds to centres with more than 80 per cent of their staff trained. …

Fewer than half the country’s 4300 centres have more than 80 per cent of their teachers registered yet. The cost blowout over the past five years would have escalated further without the decision National has taken.

While the cut-off will save $295 million, Education Minister Anne Tolley plans to put $107 million back into other early education programmes, $91.8 million of it earmarked for Maori, Pacific and low-income areas. …

Plainly, National does not regard specialist teaching of pre-school children to be quite as important as Labour did. It is probably right. When the previous Government imposed training requirements, there were loud objections from childcare companies that some capable and dedicated staff would be unable to meet these. National does not want to drum them out of the industry.

Nice to see some balance on this issue.

The Press looks at the two Koreas:

Crises between the two Koreas have been so commonly in the headlines for 60 years that it is tempting to dismiss the present tension as a replay of the usual game that will come to nothing. But such is the unpredictability of the North, that would be unwise. …

The South Koreans’ painstaking investigation and the employment of international experts mean the findings are incontrovertible. Thus China, the North’s closest supporter, accepts that the boat went down as a result of a torpedo attack from an armament of the type employed by the North.

The hope must be that the same considered approach will prevail now that the report has been made public, and in this, China’s role is vital.

Its ability to lean on North Korea is the best hope that the hysterical response there to the report will not escalate into another act of military bravado.

North Korea commits an act of war, and then threatens anyone who complains about it. They really are the most thuggish of the various regimes of ill repute.

Seoul wants punishment of the North by way of United Nations sanctions, on the grounds that the incident breached the Korean War armistice and the UN charter.

China’s veto power over a resolution triggering such a response is likely to be used, if only because the North says war will result if sanctions are imposed. Few countries would regret the veto’s use, even if they publicly deplored it.

I would. China’s protection of North Korea emboldens them.

The Dom Post talks finance companies:

Mark Bryers, who is bankrupt in New Zealand but not in Australia, was sentenced last week to 75 hours’ community work and fines of $37,470, plus court costs, after earlier pleading guilty to 34 charges laid by the Economic Development Ministry in relation to the running of Blue Chip. The charges dealt with book-keeping and a failure to attend a creditors’ meeting.

For many of the more than 2000 investors owed a total of $80 million after being caught in the February 2008 collapse of Blue Chip, the sentence is not enough. Some have had their futures destroyed, and their anger was on show at the court, where Bryers was described as scum as he entered. They believe he showed little sign of repentance.

The frustration is at the law’s inability to deliver what the aggrieved would see as justice. Bryers is legally guilty of paperwork failings, but those who lost their money believe they were taken advantage of in a more fundamental way.

That may be true, but the courts and justice system deal, as they should, with legality, not morality.

There is, for example, no suggestion that Mark Hotchin or Eric Watson did anything legally wrong in the collapse of Hanover Finance, which left more than 16,000 investors out of pocket when it froze more than half a billion dollars of assets.

There is morality, and then there is the law.

The ODT also focuses on finance companies:

There were gasps in the court from those investors present, many of whom had lost their houses and savings, when it became evident that Bryers would not serve a custodial sentence.

As he entered the court some had called him “scum”, others “thief” and still more “low life”.

After hearing of his sentence they pronounced their own verdicts outside the court: “he needed to go to jail,” said one; another insisted he should “pay the price”; a third said she felt “absolutely let down by the justice system”. …

Notwithstanding the fact – as pointed out by the ministry lawyer – that the charges were not of fraud, the penalties imposed seem extraordinarily light when set against the loss and suffering of those who invested with Bryers and the Blue Chip group.

Even though they were not of fraud, he still got off lightly.

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