BIG NEWS: 12/01/2008 - 01/01/2009

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Summer pix

The Dominion Post is calling for people to take their summer pix and email them to the Dominion Post and the best ones will be selected for publication.

I submitted one I took yesterday afternoon. I got a call today to say that it will be published tomorrow.

That was quick! It must have been a good one.
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Tuesday, December 30, 2008

World record: Soccer player sent off after 3 seconds

A player with English minor league club Chippenham Town has set a record for the fastest-red card in senior football when he was sent off for a wild tackle three seconds after kickoff.

However the amateur record is two sceonds, when English amateur player, Lee Todd, was sent off when he responded to the referee's whistle to start the game by saying "xxxx me, that was loud" and was dismissed for foul and abusive language.

More here.
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Monday, December 29, 2008

Child abuse and prostitution

Make a list of all the child abuse murders in the past five years. Look at the family structure. Put a tick against the families whose adults are not married. Put a tick against the families that are Maori. Put another tick against families that have a beneficiary. Tell the media what proportion of families have at least two ticks, and how many have three.

But just before you do that, contact a Maori and a former prostitute for comment. Two recommendations would be Children's Commissioner Cindy Kiro and Prostitutes Collective head Catherine Healy. Give them the results. Ask them why sex workers are safer on the streets than kids in at-risk families in their own homes. Ask Healy what proportion of street workers are married and non-Maori - and how many were abused as children.

Given that Bob McCoskrie from Family First is accessible to and can access the media frequently, perhaps that's something he could do, given his views on prostitution and child abuse.

Here's a start:

February 2006 3 year old Ngatikaura Ngati suffered heavy bruising and wounds to his arms, legs, chest, face and groin. The mother, 32, and stepfather, 27, each face a charge of murder, child cruelty and failing to provide the necessaries of life. Both found guilty of manslaughter – sentenced to 8.5 years each. Up for parole in less than four years.

March 2007 - A woman whose baby, Cheyenne Petersen, drowned after she allegedly abandoned it in bush near Parua Bay, near Whangarei, pleased guilty to manslaughter She was high on P at the time and later charged with manslaughter. She got a reduced two-and-a-half years prison term as she was a drug addict.

May 2007 26 -year old solo mother of five admitted infanticide after an initial charge of murder was dropped. She was sentenced her to two years' intensive supervision and 100 hours of community work. Supervision includes treatment for alcohol abuse.

June 2007 - Sachin Dhani (16 months) dies after beatingwhile in care of a relative

June 2007 - 28-year-old woman charged with murdering her newborn baby found dead in the backyard of a Te Mome Road property in Alicetown.

June 2007 - Death of 22 month old Tyla-Maree Darryl Flynn from severe burns while being cared for by step-father. A 30 year old man charged but he caused a car accidentkilling another person - possibly while drunk. As he died in the accident he could not be convicted.

July 2007 3-year-old Nia Glassie was brain damaged after months of assaults by stepfather, grandfather and extended family. Her family is backgrounded here.

September 2007 Ten-month-old Jyniah Mary Te Awa died in Starship Hospital after receiving a suspicious "non-accidental brain injury". Tiana Mary-Anne Odessa Kapea, a baby sitter, was convicted of her murder.

November 2007Azees Mahomed, 29, is to stand trial in 2009 for the murder of his 11-week-old daughter Tahani Mahomed. The girl's mother will also face charges of failing to provide the necessaries of life and one of neglect.

1 Jan 2008 Two-month-old Tahani Mahomed died at 5am New Years Day. Police have interviewed her 29-year-old father and 24-year-old mother. Her two-year-old sister was taken into the care of Child, Youth and Family. Her Father (29) was charged with the murder and a 24-year-old woman was arrested and charged with failing to provide "the necessities of life".

April 2008 Three-year old Dylan Hohepa Tonga Rimoni dies of 'unexplained head injuries' while in care of his foster parents April 18, 2008. A 36-year-old woman was charged with murder as well as two charges of causing him grievous bodily harm and assault.

July 2008 - Duwayne Toetu Taote Pailegutu (7). His stepfather Johnny Pukerua Ioakimo Joachim, (37) pleaded guilty to murder. The boy's mother has also appeared in court, charged with failing to provide the necessities of life. CYF twice notified but did not investigate.

December 2008- 16-month old Riley Justin Osborne. Beneficiary stepfather (22) charged with murder.

Here's some cases where nobody was convicted of murder or manslaughter.

* Raiden Niania, 4 months. Father Arthur Niania found not guilty of shaken-baby manslaughter after his second trial. First trial had to be aborted.

* Alyssa Wilson, 4 months old. Father - boxer and playstation addict went through three trials, the last of which was aborted. No further trials so charge withdrawn. No one will ever be held accountable.

* Chris and Cru Kahui, 3 months. Father Chris Kahui charged with murder but found not guilty. No one else is expected to face charges.

UPDATE Well, that didn't take long - another child dies - under CYFS care. More details when they come to hand.

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Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas everyone, I`m going to sleep now - I`ll be back in the new year - or earlier if someone wakes me up and tells me some decent news or lets me know of some good parties. Be safe, drive carefully.
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Sunday, December 21, 2008

Why can't they go flatting?

More than 11,500 people live alone in state houses with two or more bedrooms.

At the same time there are 502 people living in garages, campgrounds, cars, caravans or on the streets while waiting for a state house including 117 children under five years old.

Why on earth cant these single people in state houses be made to have flatmates like everyone else?


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Mortgaged and more

Apparently, one in five homeowners with a mortgage owes the bank more than what the house is worth due to falling house prices. That's scary. It's also a sign of the times when people don't bother saving for a decent deposit anymore. In a two year period one householder bought his house and sold it for $500,000 less than he bought it for.


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Work and Income Manager tells more lies

The wife of a former gang leader caught driving while her licence was suspended had her towing and impound fees paid by Work and Income .WINZ deputy Chief Executive Patricia Reade responds:
I can say that paying for cars to be returned to people who are not legally entitled to drive is totally unacceptable. In exceptional circumstances WINZ will provide repayable loans to clients for car towage and impoundment fees. This would only be considered if the car was essential due to illness, disability or employment.
Read is spouting complete rubbish, and not for the first time. The money in question was not paid to get this gang members wife into employment, or because of illness or disability. WINZ did not check if the person has a license or whether the car was registered and warranted.

WINZ is not required to check if the person needed the car due to illness, disability or employment. It doesn't even check to see if the person owned the car. All it requires that the person has an "immediate and essential need" and meets an income and asset test.

That need was to get the car back and minimise the towage and storage fees. Being unlicensed, unwarranted and unregistered doesn't come into it. This is not a one off - payment is even made to drunk drivers who get their cars impounded. If it is unacceptable to provide grants to unlicensed drivers, surely you'd think Reade would at least require people to produce drivers licences when applying for a loan, instead of telling porkies.


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Saturday, December 20, 2008

Urgency and democracy

I have no doubt that if a National government, or a National-dominated coalition, is formed after the elections this spring, it will dominate the Parliament and make use of urgency and other parliamentary abuses, to get its measures through, just as much as its predecessor. That is what has got to stop.Some parliamentarians and some politicians have to begin standing up for the integrity of the legislative process itself, even when it is politically inconvenient to do so.
This quote is from Dr Jeremy Waldron, who spoke at the annual John Graham lecture hosted by the Maxim Institute earlier this year, explaining some misgivings on our parliamentary legislative system. He spoke on select committees being undermined by supplementary order papers, which like urgency, can curtail debate and act like a veto on select committee decisions.We have no legislative safegards other countries take for granted: No quorum, no second chamber, no requirement to attend in order to vote, no judicial review, no real independence from the executive, and constant recourse to urgency and supplementary order papers. All in the name of efficiency, political expediency and executive impatience.

I was unaware that Maxim had put the text of the speech online - and it's a speech worth reading. Waldron, among other matters commented on democracy and fair laws, and considered urgency was not democratic or fair, except in situations like pre-budget taxes. According to Waldron, urgency leads to an unfair lawmaking process and removal of some legislative safeguards means that Parliament is not a place of genuine engagement any more . Sometimes there is more genuine engagement on blogs and forums like Maxim and others. But laws are make by Parliamentarians who seek our compliance.
Our compliance is going to have to be rooted in the fairness and openness of the democratic process by which it was made. We obey because we think the law was made fairly, not because we agree with what it says.

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Friday, December 19, 2008

U2's new album

No Line On The Horizon, the new studio album from U2, will be released on Monday 2nd March 2009.

Written and recorded in various locations, No Line On The Horizon is the group’s 12th studio album and is their first release since the 9 million selling album How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb, released in late 2004.

Sessions for No Line On The Horizon began last year in Fez, Morocco, continued in the band’s own studio in Dublin, before moving to New York’s Platinum Sound Recording Studios, and finally being completed at Olympic Studios in London.

The album calls on the production talents of long-time collaborators Brian Eno and Danny Lanois, with additional production by Steve Lillywhite, who has reportedly said that the new album is U2's best ever.

If you like U2's old stuff - you can listen to the entire album of Boy here.


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Price stability to be at the cost of full employment

On Wednesday, the Government signed another Policy Target Agreement with the Reserve Bank. It is still based on price stability and inflation is still to be kept at 1-3 percent over the medium term. But instead of "full employment" and "equitable distribution of income", the Government wants to promote a "growing, open and competitive economy as the best means of delivering permanently higher incomes and living standards".

So social objectives for all go out the window in favour of stronger economic objectives that benefit the few. Given that economic growth is expected to be zero in the short to medium term, I fail to see how the PTA will lead to economic growth. So not many are going to get permanently higher incomes and living standards unless they are MPs or judges.

Given that unemployment and inflation are trade-offs, and unemployment is to go up - does this mean that the Reserve Bank is to use unemployment to keep inflation down again. If so, that`ll be the explanation for the removal of "full employment" from the PTA.

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Aussie exodus to get bigger?

Nearly 100 people a day are moving over to Australia to live. Compared with last year, more than 8000 more have left to go and live in Australia.

It seems that everyone knows someone who has moved to Australia to live in the past three years – myself included. We have family who moved to Australia for a better life and better income last year. They’re not coming back in a hurry.

But it could get worse – an average of 193 people are expected to lose their jobs. That’s not every week, that’s an average every day for the next 15 months. If the international recession does not worsen Treasury expects 68,000 to lose their jobs – that’s only about 150 on average every day.

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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Fire at will bill will not lead to 13 week benefit stand downs

There has been a fair bit of scaremongering by the Greens that the Fire at Will Bill will lead to people losing their jobs and not being eligible for a benefit for 13 weeks. In fact it is the opposite - people who are fired at will for misconduct under the 90 day legislation will be much less likely to get a long stand down.

Firstly, if you are fired within the 90 days and your partner works you are not eligible for a benefit anyway. Secondly, the 13 weeks only applies to a work tested benefit and is a discretionary stand down, not a mandatory one as the MSD can choose not to apply it. If they go on a sickness, invalids or DPB, the stand down won't apply.

Section 60H of the Social Security Act provides for the stand down if an employee leaves their place of employment without a good and sufficient reason.Unemployed means resigning from or otherwise leaving employment, other than by dismissal. Any firing is dismissal. However the section also applies if an employee has lost his job because of misconduct. Misconduct cannot be proven under the 90 day legislation as an employee can't challenge it in a personal grievance - the only method of establishing whether the employer acted with good and sufficient reason, whether that reason was misconduct or simply a bad case of BO. .So a stand down can't be legally imposed as there is no test of that good and sufficient reason.

Sue Bradford wrongly says that if an employee who is dismissed, say, on suspicion of theft, will be stood down from the dole for 13 weeks, and will have no means of challenging the stand-down. Mere suspicion is not a good and sufficient reason and a decision to stand down on something that may not have happened can certainly be challenged. But, for those who don't know beneficiary rights - including Sue Bradford and most WINZ Case Managers - they wouldn't know that a person can get out of a 13 week stand down purly by attending a mandatory interview in preparation for employment, and an approved activity. This could be as simple as getting a free CV and doing the interview applying for a benefit and receiving a Job Seekers Agreement.

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Labour ignored its fiscal responsibilities

One of the things an incoming government needs to know is the state of the books. As per the Public Finance Act, the pre-election fiscal update is supposed to advise any items where decisions have been made that that affect the fiscal position. With regard to the ACC it is clear that the Government knew of the approximate blowout of the ACC non-earners account in May, with confirmed figures in August - before the election was called.
Craig Foss: What advice has the Minister received on the accuracy of a statement made by the Hon David Parker in respect of the non-earners account blowout not being in the Pre-election Economic and Fiscal Update, where he says: “Papers show that Ministers acted appropriately throughout, as the money needed had not been quantified until the election period.”?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH: The money needed was clearly identified in a report to the former Minister on 14 August, based on a PricewaterhouseCoopers valuation. A further 60-page technical report was completed by the ACC on 22 August, which confirmed those figures. The election was not called until 12 September, and the Pre-election Economic and Fiscal Update closing-off date was 8 September, after the previous Government had that information.

So Labour made a decision not to decide to do anything about this problem well before the Prefu deadline. As it was a decision, that decision should have been indicated in the Prefu.

We also find that the previous government have been irresponsible in Housing, with $2 billion required to address the deferred maintenance of State houses including their update to an appropriate standard.

Guess who the Minister of Housing was - none other than Maryan Street, the ACC minister and a former board member of Housing New Zealand.

What did Maryan Street actually achieve as a minister other than sleeping with the PMs chief press secretary and creating a mess while collecting a ministerial salary and perks?

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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Coldplay to play in New Zealand

This is huge. Coldplay is playing in Auckland in March. Tickets available from Ticketmaster on Dec 22. They'll be sold out by Christmas. Wonder if John Key will get a ticket?


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This month's Investigate magazine is online

The current issue of Investigate is online. To obtain a downloadable PDF that you can keep and print out, you can apparently visit Alternatively you can read it here.


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Monday, December 15, 2008

The fuss about Labour's red balloon

On 2 April the Electoral Commission considered whether a red balloon with the Labour Party logo was an electoral advertisement under the Electoral Finance Act. The Electoral Commission didn’t know whether it was an advertisement under the Act or not so it sought an opinion from Crown Law.

Recently, as is normal, the Commission made a decision about this balloon but they hadn't formally published it. The Commission had all its information when it received the Crown Law decision on 27 November – the very day after it made the decision on Rodney Hide’s yellow jacket.

Although the Hide decision was quickly released, the Electoral Commission released the balloon decision on 11 December.

The Labour balloon also had a website, but no slogan. Hide’s jacket had a logo, a slogan, but no website address and was deemed to breach the Electoral Finance Act in the absence of a promoter statement.

However the balloon was deemed not to breach the Electoral Finance Act because there was no disproportionate use of the logo. After the Hide decision it is the only decision that could have been made. Had that balloon been deemed an advertisement under the electoral finance act all signs to every electoral office in the country would similarly have breached the Act.

There is also a complaint regarding a Green MP's swimsuit. There is no slogan accompanying the logo so guess what that decision will be?

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Saturday, December 13, 2008

Labour Party votes to repeal its own laws

Labour voted to repeal its own bail laws yesterday , changing the law so that people don't have to pose a "real and significant risk", but a "risk", reversing the laws the Government made. These law allowed all and sundry to get bail and waste court time when they don't bother to turn up. They even got bail when they previously offended on bail.

Not any more. Don't get me wrong, I think bail is a right - and rights have obligations. This bill means that bail is not a right, as it is now harder to get. But I don't support laws that allow people who get bail, breach it, and then get it again. I prefer a middle ground where people can get bail, even if it is electronically monitored. If they breach it, the risk increases and they are far less likely to get it in future.

I look forward to Labour supporting the repeal of the Electoral Finance Act.


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Friday, December 12, 2008

Union lawyers create fear over new employment law

I read this media release earlier today. Three lawyers are trying to scare people into not taking jobs with employers with fewer than 20 employees in case they get sacked without reason. The lawyers say that the new Employment Relations Amendment Act exposes everyone who starts a new job in a company where there are fewer than 20 employees to the risk of being sacked without even being told the reason.

They’re wrong.

The 90 day trial period is not mandatory, so not all new employees in small businesses will be under a trial period. Furthermore, 90 days is the maximum trial period – there is no minimum. I thought to myself, do these lawyers -Helen White, Simon Mitchell and Greg Lloyd – work for unions. We know Greg Lloyd works for the National Distribution Union. The other two work for Unity Chambers. But Helen White used to work for the EPMU including work with employee grievances under the Employment Relations Act. The EPMU has organised a petition to the Governor General to ask him not to give the Act Royal Assent. The Governor General must give Royal Assent, so that’s pointless.

But what of Simon Mitchell? He specialises in acting for unions and has been counsel for the Service and Food Workers Union.

So we have three lawyers who have union connections who team up to write a scaremongering release. Now we know their backgrounds, who is surprised that they don’t want to tell the truth?

DPF raises similar points.

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The price of silence: commemorating the UN Declaration of Human Rights

Amnesty International has just launched a viral ad that uses special effects to show members of the public preventing human rights abuses to mark the anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights this week. Sixty years after the declaration was signed, millions are still denied basic human rights. Many governments still show more interest in abusing power than respecting those they lead.

But hope exists.

The ad aims to show that individual members of the public have the ability to protect people's rights in other parts of the world. It features a series of clips of people doing ordinary things at home. Each clip then cuts to show TV footage of a situation where human rights abuses are taking place. In each case the member of the public is then digitally inserted into the TV footage to make it look like they were personally responsible for stopping the abuse.

The 90-second ad is set to the song Until the Day is Done by REM.

Update its here now.

Another video recently released by Amnesty is the "Price of Silence" [ hat tip Frogblog]. A fantastic music video, it features the UN General Assembly as well as musicians, one who was born in a Chinese labour camp, another was born in war-torn Sudan and taken from his family home when he was six years old, and sent to fight with the rebel army in Sudan’s bloody civil war. I`d encourage you to watch it.

You can also buy this track on iTunes. All proceeds go to Amnesty International.

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Thursday, December 11, 2008

April Fool's tax cuts for the rich

This, from John Key’s speech from the throne.
My Government is today tabling a Bill to reduce personal taxes from 1 April 2009. Its intention is to pass this new tax legislation by Christmas and it believes this tax reduction will equip New Zealanders with some much needed extra cash in tough economic times.
It is the New Zealanders who are earning less than $40,000 who need extra cash in tough economic times. Guess how much their April 1 tax cut will be?


A couple earning $70,000 - one on $38,000, the other on $32,000 – gets nothing at all.


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Maori Party to oppose “fire at will” bill

The Maori Party is to be congratulated for its announcement not to support the 90 day employment bill. The bill would give businesses with fewer than 20 employees the right to instantly sack new staff. Meaning an employer with 19 employees including a new problem staffer will not employ anyone else until the problem staff member is sorted, and those in secure jobs will be silly to leave a secure job for a better job in a workplace of fewer than 20 people.

The passage of this bill means that anyone who is on an benefit and gets a job, or a WINZ employer subsidy will be hoping that they get a job with a business employing at least 20 employees. Lots of unemployed will be finding out how many employees a business has and applying for positions in larger businesses.

Unions are moaning that they won’t be able to make submissions as the bill will be passed under urgency. It would be a fair bet that most union representation is for workers in businesses with more than 20 employees. Since when have unions been actively concerned for the rights of workers that are not union members?

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How handy –BIMs in one place

Anyone interested in the briefings to incoming ministers can find and read them all online here. Here's some comment on three: Families Commission, CYFS, and Office of Childrens COmmissioner.

The BIM from the Families Commission notes that 20 years ago, almost nine out of 10 families with children had both parents living in the same household. Today, that number is seven out of 10, with the other three being sole parent households. What it didn’t say that of the seven, many have children that are not living with their father and mother – but one of their parents and their parent’s partner. Given that half all murders are domestic –violence related, with many of these families having a non-European step-parent, I would have thought that would have been relevant. If the Commission hasn’t research this, it is not doing its job, if it has researched it, it should be in the BIM.

It mentioned the (now scrapped) Family Commission Summit. Apparently the summit and its costs made the Minister’s face turn blue, which is an appropriate colour. I note that several commissioners and CTU president Helen Kelly were confirmed to speak, as was Phil O’Rielly from Business New Zealand. Yet those such as Family First’s Bob McCoskrie, and For the Sake of our Children’s Christine Rankin were not even asked and no Pacific Islanders were confirmed to speak. So participants were hardly “drawn from a cross-section of people in terms of age, ethnicity and areas/sectors of knowledge and influence”. Just one Maori was asked to speak and that’s because the Children’s Commissioner is Maori.

Which brings me to the next briefing paper - the briefing from the Office of the Children’s Commissioner. No mention at all was made of the smacking advocacy or Section 59 of the Crime’s Act – whatsoever - despite mentioning it in the first paragraph of this year’s Annual Report. It considered Section 59 a “major issue”.

The BIM said that children who do not experience warm loving carers during infancy are less likely to develop empathy and so struggle with future relationships – and NCEA, apparently. We don’t need “ warm loving carers” for children, we need children who are cared for by their father and their mother, not all day carers that provide care out of a home environment while their parents work, get home tired and see their children in weekends only. We need children who are helped by their parents with homework so these kids can get NCEA. And it is Maori children who need this support more as they are over represented in under achievement.

Early intervention is about tilting the balance in favour of children. When we build skyscrapers, we ensure that the foundations are well designed and securely in place. The foundation should be strong families – the OCC answer is a strong state intervention led by task forces and frameworks, along with a “strategic and integrated” approach. Pathetic.

Although the OCC did mention that there was an increase in notifications to CYFS due to family violence, it was the CYFS briefing paper that had the details. No mention was made of the OCC in the CYFS briefing at all. Child abuse notifications had gone up by 30,000 in the past year, because police are required to refer all family violence – including smacking – notifications and investigations to CYFS. But the amount that required further action had actually reduced with no change in the rate of substantiated child abuse. Was this the reason why smacking and Section 59 was not mentioned by the OCC BIM? It is clear that the thousands of notifications are starting to hamstring the effectiveness of CYFS and the BIM says if irrelevant notifications were to increase it will lead to an “inability to cope”.

Organisations like Family First will claim that irrelevant advocacy work of the OCC is leading to notifications that are starting to hamstring the ability of CYFS to do its job.

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Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Ouch! Great balls of fire

A father of three was critically burnt during a home fire. His genitals were set set alight by his wife as he slept.

It is alleged that she threw a cup of methylated spirits on her husband’s genitals and then set him on fire with a candle.

When the husband awoke, he knocked over the cup of spirits, and the fire quickly spread.

The couple’s three children were also in the house, but escaped unharmed.

The man is unlikely to survive.
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Samoan swearing-in

As I was yesterday, I am busy interviewing people today and so this may be the only post of the day. As part of the job I have to ask people their ethnicity. People can choose two ethnicities, some state they are New Zealanders. Some state they are European, some state New Zealand Maori. And, quote frankly, I'm glad new MP Su'a William Sio was able to do his swearing-in in Samoan as well as English. People don't have to choose between being Samoan and a New Zealander if they don't want to - they can be both a New Zealand Maori or a New Zealand Samoan so why shouldn't Su'a be able to swear the oath in his native tongue and in English in the country he lives in if he can declare himself a New Zealander (or European) and a Samoan.

After all people can swear on the Bible - and the Bible doesn't have to be written in English.
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Saturday, December 06, 2008

English is not an official language in New Zealand

Mangere MP Sua William Sio is fuming after being told he cannot be sworn into Parliament in his native language, Samoan. Some bloggers have covered this, saying that only "official" languages in this country should be used in Parliament. Samoan is spoken more frequently in Mangere than Maori is.

Whale Oil maintains that English and Maori are our official languages, David Farrar says English, Maori and sign language are our official languages.

Both are incorrect. English is not an official language in this country, never has been. English, the medium for teaching and learning in most schools, is a de facto official language by virtue of its widespread use, but is not noted as an official language. Just like civil unions are not marriages, but are defacto relationships that have legal benefits of marriage.

In any case the reason that Mangere MP cannot speak in Samoan is not because it isn’t an official language, it is, apparently, because Parliamentary Services rejected his request to be sworn in Samoan because of limited time.

Limited time for what?

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Friday, December 05, 2008

Reporting statistics

Some journalists need assistance in interpreting basic statistics.

Last year, 50 percent of drownings in New Zealand were Europeans, with 23 percent Maori. This means that just over twice as many Europeans as Maori drowned, but, unlike the Herald reported, it does not mean that Europeans are twice as likely as Maori to drown.

The reason is obvious, if you haven't already worked it out: There are many times more Europeans in the country than there are Maori. Given that 80 percent of drownings are male, at least the reporter didn't say that Europeans males are 21.6 percent more likely to drown than Maori males :-)

If 15 per cent of New Zealanders are Maori and 75 percent are European, (just to make it easier) see if you can work out how many times more likely Europeans are to drown than Maori. Then work out how many times more likely Maori males - as compared to European males - are likely to drown (heh).

Just don't ask James Ihaka at the NZ Herald. But if anyone from the Herald is reading this, could they also kindly advise Mr Ihaka that in news reports, single digit numbers like four (4) are written in words, not numbers.


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Cullen knew

When former ACC Minister Maryan Street wrote to Michael Cullen in October advising him of an expected shortfall in the ACC non earners account, she told Cullen something that he already knew - that the ACC non earners account needed $1b more over the next three years, and it could run out of money by March. ACC have known much of this for some time but hadn't officially quantified it.

The non earners account has always been an issue for Governments. Cullen knew the extent of the problem at least two months before Street wrote to him but chose to do nothing about it. It may not have been under "active consideration" but the Government certainly appeared to have known the extent of the problem and what the Treasury had recommended -but chose not to make a decision on it.
Ms Street provided the official papers to the Herald, including the August 14 report from ACC that detailed an estimated shortfall of over $900 million over the next three years. The figures were actually estimated out for five years, taking the shortfall to $1.5 billion.
Street only wrote to Cullen in October to confirm what he already knew. Cullen did nothing for two months before prefu. That is disgraceful fiscal irresponsibility. No wonder Treasury officials are irate at the previous administration as the non earners account was under active consideration for some time by Treasury officials.

But the Government preferred to deny and delay. All workers and the country will pay for this - through increased levies to beef up the blown out earners account, and through taxation to the non-earners account.


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Thursday, December 04, 2008

Logos, slogans and the Electoral Finance Act

The decision that the slogan on Rodney Hide’s yellow jacket was deemed in breach of the Electoral Finance Act is the first decision involving a party logo. Yet it wasn’t a decision on a party logo per se. The decision does not say that jacket was in breach of the Electoral Finance Act, nor does it specifically say that the logo in itself is in breach. But a logo with a slogan in Rodney Hides jacket was in breach of the Act. Indeed as Homepaddock has been advised there has not been a decision on a party logo.

This has implications in forthcoming decisions – such as a party logo on a balloon and a party logo on a T-shirt. Once it is acknowledged that a party logo is an advertisement, the implications are immense.Are party logos different to slogans such as “Time for a change” and “the guts to do what’s right”.

Sounds like it. We’ll have to wait and see. Perhaps that's why a decision on Hides jacket was released before a decision on Labour's balloon even though the balloon complaint was with the commission earlier.What appears certain is that items of clothing were not in breach of the Electoral Finance Act.That means a balloon wouldn't be either. It is the advertisement that is the breach.

In these cases the Electoral Commission considers the legality of election advertisements – not what that advertisements are displayed on.


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Wednesday, December 03, 2008

I love my yellow jacket, and I wear it all the time

Rodney Hide was pissed off with Andy Moore when he referred Hide's yellow jacket with the ACT logo to the Electoral Commission to see if it breached the Electoral Finance Act. The Electoral Commission decided that it the jacket breached the Act as the logo on the jacket didnt display a promoter statement. So Hide put a promoter statement inside his jacket and the Electoral Commission decided that this statement was not sufficient to satisfy the requirements of the Electoral Finance Act because it wasn't visible. The Commission referred the matter to the police because it considered there was public interest in doing so.

The Commission considered that the logo on Hide's jacket contravened sections 63(2)(a) and 65(1)(b) of the Electoral Finance Act by failure to display a promoter statement, and contravention of 65(1)(a) by failure to obtain written authorisation from the party financial agent, amounting to offences under sections 63(4) and 65(4) of the Act.

But S68 (1) of the EFA says that no payment must be made to any elector on the account of the exhibition of any election advertisement. Hide bought the jacket for $1100 as an election advertisement according to the Electoral Commission, (meaning that he brought it to provide something to tack an ACT slogan onto) and according to S68(2), this means both Hide and possibly the person who made Hide the jacket could be guilty of an illegal practice due to the payment made.

Oops. The Electoral Commission missed that one. It is the jacket that is in breach, not the logo on that jacket.

Where I think the Commission has erred is that in its decision it says that Hide's jacket also breaches the Act because the promoter statement was not visible. That wasn't the reason the statement breached the Act. According to 63(2)(a) and 65(1)(b) of the Act, the sections deemed a breach, the promoter statement does not have to be visible, just "contained". And the statement was later "contained" on the jacket. Given that the decision stated that the commission hadn't even viewed the promoter statement, how can it then officially deem it a breach of this section? The statement actually breached the EFA because it did not have Nick Kearneys address. The statement read authorised by Nick Kearney ... as required by Helen.

So if the police agree with the commission, and prosecute, it will mean that Rodney Hide, in wearing his jacket in a public place, is committing an act that is more criminal than parental smacking of a child. The Children's Commissioner would be horrified.

correction: To be precise, according to the Electoral Commission, the jacket is not in breach, just the graphics - even though the jacket was bought with the express purpose of using it to promote the graphics and logo. Makes you wonder how the Electoral Commission will adjudicate on this election advertisement as, like a balloon, the logo is part and parcel of it, not added on at a later date as was Hides.

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We all know now that Labour has been hiding a $1b shortfall in the ACC non earners account, which deals with claims from people like children, students and the elderly.The excuse was that Cabinet hadn't made a decision on what to do about it. The reality is that Cabinet decided not to make a decision on it to hide the shortfall, claiming that they didn't have time.

Yet the Government had time to announce retail bank deposit guarantees, constituting a $150 billion liability, without a Cabinet decision during their campaign launch. Yet they told officials not to include the ACC figures in the PREFU and officials I have spoken with today are furious about this dishonesty. And Labour wanted to lower ACC levies knowing full well it had been hiding a blowout in the non earners account for six months purely because Cabinet refused to make a decision on it.

John Key has announced a Ministerial inquiry - the first proper inquiry on anything since 1999. Former ACC minister Maryan Street, who knew about a shortfall since May, is not talking to anyone, she's not the Labour spokesperson anymore. She won't reveal how much of the shortfall she knew in May. How convenient. An OIA request has already been sent to ACC as ACC will not reveal what they told to whom about this. Another thing for the Ombudsman to follow up on in 20 working days.

I'm actually wondering if policies like student allowance announced during the election campaign were announced at this time purely because the Government had just engineered the ACC shortfall so it would not be revealed until after the election when it would be National's responsibility to find out later and clean up the mess.


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Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Denying us official information

The Office of the Ombudsman has released its annual report and has noted that some public servants are playing games and using stalling tactics to delay requests under the Official Information Act.

Since April this year Beverley Wakem has been the Chief Ombudsman and she is taking a harder line on those who purposely stall OIA requests, particularly when the Ombudsman is involved. Although she hasn't named the Government departments concerned, next year she may. She will take a harder line and audit those departments and ministerial offices, such as Police, Social Development and Health, probably ACC too; and possibly naming them. One of them took a whole year to answer an OIA after it was referred to the Ombudsman. The statutory time limit is 20 working days.

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From the archives: when World AIDS Day was about the penis

Yesterday was World Aids Day. A few years ago the AIDS Foundation called it National Penis Day. I blogged on National Penis day about the AIDS Foundation gimmick, and gave them some suggestions on how to make the day stick out as one to remember. Taking the piss, if you will. This is from the archives.

Who was the “dickhead” that organised tomorrow’s National Penis Day? An AIDS Foundation gimmick, the point of it all is to provide a fun way to promote a serious issue, men’s health - particularly men’s sexual health according to AIDS Foundation Executive Director Kevin Hague. A nationwide discussion of men’s health issues is noble, but it won’t happen as a result of a day promoting the penis. But will National Penis day achieve its aim?

Depending on how you aim. NPD did not get off to a good start when billboards featuring a non erect penis or two (perhaps belonging to “members” of the AIDS Foundation?) were deemed to risque for erecting, and the penises (or more correctly, penes) were ordered back in their respective Y-fronts.

Mind you, driving past a penis billboard may have caused a few accidents. Due to the small size of the member, drivers may have been laughing so much. Why couldn’t they have an erect penis on the billboard, its bigger and can take up more space. The AIDS foundation will just have to email a penis with their media releases to “get the penis out there”.

Now that the billboard idea is canned, will the penis day organiser take the approach of the red nose day, or daffodil day – get collectors with buckets full of penes, charge a couple of dollars, and that will include the women in the event. Both sexes can have a penis for the day – and men can have two. The money could go to the AIDS Foundation and Richard and Judy could wear theirs on One Network News.

Another idea is to get a penis and wrap a condom around it and exhibit it at Te Papa. We could call the exhibition “Penis in a condom” and it could open a debate on monogamous relationships and contraception. It could lead to a debate on the definition of the family unit, and how sex was designed for procreation as well as pleasure. Of course the “Puppetry of the Penis” show would never be allowed as that is abuse of the penis.

But why have a penis day to promote men’s health? Why not have a men’s sexual heath day? Do members of the AIDS Foundation have a fixation on the penis or a concern for men’s sexual health? When did you last go to the doctor because you had a problem with your penis. “Doctor, doctor, I can’t seem to get to grips with this problem, do you think you could get a handle on the issue?”

It gets worse. The AIDS Foundation, in a media release said the penis is “something shared by every man”. I will admit to sharing mine. Maybe they should have said, “the penis is something all men have”. At least they didn’t say the penis is shared with every man. That would penis owners in great risk of catching STD’s.

Do you have a problem with your penis? “Let’s face facts, ignoring a problem and hoping it will go away is just plain dumb,” the media release said. What’s not so clear is whether the penis or the problem will go away. Gangrene anyone?

So will you be involved in a penis show-and-tell or discussion workshop this week, or are you content to have a laugh about the fact that it is national penis day and leave it at that? Since when would a national penis day – or a national scrotum day for that matter – assist in discussing such issues? One NZAF media release actually highlighted the dilemma of testicular cancer in great length, so why not call it a testicle day? After all most men have two testicles – but only one penis, and testicular cancer is a real issue in men’s sexual health.

Sexual health is not just about the penis - that’s just the member that sticks out the most – and its used more frequently for urinating than for sex.

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Yesterday's news

Radio New Zealand has recently discovered that a screening tool has found that most prisoners needed help with numeracy and literacy, and problems are worse than previously thought.

At least worse than RNZ previously thought, anyway.What RNZ didn’t appear to know was that it was the Howard League for Penal Reform who actually asked for this information and had it way back in September and reported on this in October.

A new screening tool developed by the Ministry of Education was trialled on 197 new prisoners. This found that approximately 60% of prisoners do not possess the basic literacy skills to engage in society and 90% were not considered functionally literate.

Additionally, approximately 35% of prisoners do not possess the numeracy skills to engage in society, and 80% are not considered functionally numerate.

If one applied these results to the general prison population, some 3600 prisoners per year have a high literacy need, while 2100 have a high numeracy need. Guess where they will go when they get out of prison.

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Monday, December 01, 2008

Abortion can cause harm to mental health

One of the main cited reasons that more than 18,000 women have abortions each year in New Zealand is that to give birth would harm the woman's mental health.

But abortion increases the risk of mental health problems by 30 percent according to a recent Otago University study published in the December issue of the British Journal of Psychiatry. Does this mean that both giving birth and an abortion is harmful to the woman's mental health? Or is it just that giving birth is likely to increases the risk and having an abortion is even more likely to harm the woman's mental health. If so, an abortion is not really the best option, is it?

Perhaps they should compare women who are married and solo women on a benefit or at school and see who is more likely to have mental problems.

Not surprisingly, the study supports international research on the subject which also revealed a link between abortion and mental health. Like this one from the Royal College of Psychiatrists in the UK more than 18 months ago that shows that continuing with an unwanted pregnancy does not outweigh the risks of living with the possible regrets of having an abortion. Their statement is here[PDF].

The nutters from the Abortion Law Reform Association of New Zealand, who would like the law reformed to fit in with current practice - try that with child abuse - have called for more research, that subscribes to their views. This is their view:
Whether or not a woman is more likely to suffer mental health problems as a consequence of having an abortion should not be the determining factor in making a decision about abortion.
The decision is not about abortion. The law states the decision is about whether to give birth or not and whether a woman is more likely to have problems, including mental problems, in giving birth. Abortion is the intended consequence of a decision not to give birth. If a woman was to have greater mental problems after an abortion than she would were she to give birth is exactly the test that should be applied for every abortion in this country.

But isn't. But that's the law. And the group that is paid to supervise this law is advocating that the law be broken for every single abortion in this country. That is why this group should be scrapped.


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