Editorials 9 June 2010

The NZ Herald criticises Len Brown for his council credit card use:

Today, Mr Brown will be wondering how seriously he has been tripped up by, as is so often the case, a relatively trivial sum of money.

Having admitted making personal purchases on his council credit card, including a $148 mini hi-fi system, he says that he has now reimbursed the council for personal expenditure totalling $579.27.

What has not been absolutely clear to me is when the reimbursements occurred. Was it the day after the purchase? Was it within a month once the statement turned up, or was it only when the media asked for copies of the credit card records?

The episode leaves problems for Mr Brown. First, he has allowed himself to become the subject of questioning at the very time that the issue of politicians’ expenses and allowances has been under intense scrutiny in New Zealand and in Britain.

This, at the very least, smacks of carelessness, while also suggesting a lack of judgment. Mr Brown may well have thought that no harm would be done by charging the hi-fi to his council credit card because he did not have his personal card and it was “essential” to get it that day.

I’m still a bit mystified by this. Most people also have an ATM card as well as a credit card. Did he somehow manage to leave all his cards behind except the Council one?

The Press criticises secrecy at Christchurch City Council:

Trying to extract financial information from the Christchurch City Council is all too often an exercise in frustration, and the dollar signs surrounding the Ellerslie International Flower Show have been an instance of this.

The Press has for several months wanted a cost breakdown of this year’s show. When the council belatedly responded, it did give an overall cost of $2.97 million, but not the detailed breakdown of an event upon which much public money has been spent.

Unfortunately, this secrecy over the show has been typical of the council. It was only last September, almost two years after it bought the show, that the council deigned to reveal how much it had paid for it.

The ratepayers right to have details of what they are funding, should outweigh commercial considerations.

The Dom Post wants an independent inquiry into the Gaza flotilla incident:

It is a basic rule of justice that those accused of a crime should not sit in judgment on themselves. For that reason, Israel should not be ruling on the rights and wrongs of its attack on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla last week.

Determining who is to blame for the deaths of nine people aboard a Turkish ship should be the work of an independent international body, as proposed by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

Mr Ban has suggested that former New Zealand prime minister Sir Geoffrey Palmer be appointed to head an international panel that would include representatives of Israel and Turkey. It is a sensible suggestion that would ensure the countries directly involved have a voice in the inquiry. But no sooner had he put up the idea than Israel’s Washington ambassador, Michael Oren, shot it down. “Israel is a democratic nation. Israel has the right and ability to investigate itself,” he said.

Israel should think again. The inquiry represents an opportunity as well as a threat to Israel. Mr Oren’s argument is the equivalent of the accused in a criminal case demanding not only the right to defend himself, but the right to present the prosecution’s case and to pass judgment once the evidence has been heard. It is not credible.

I agree that Israel should agree. An internal inquiry will not have credibility.

And finally the ODT looks at a health programme:

Apart from the trendy acronym – B4SC – by which it is known in certain quarters, there is much to be said in favour of the Before School Check programme implemented by the country’s district health boards in 2008-09 at the behest of the Ministry of Health.

The intention of the programme is the early detection of health needs with referral on to appropriate specialists.

This makes good sense: health and general wellbeing issues (for example, growth, dental, vision, hearing) detected early, and remedied, are issues that could otherwise evolve into capital intensive or resource-hungry problems.

Identified and addressed, the expensive ambulance at the bottom of the cliff becomes somewhat redundant, as do the various interventions required as the child makes his or her troublesome descent.

Introduced under the last Labour administration, the initiative came sharply into focus when Health Minister Tony Ryall, unhappy with aspects of its implementation, called for a review last year.

He subsequently announced in April that it would continue.

They key is making sure the programme reaches those most in need.

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