BIG NEWS: 01/01/2008 - 02/01/2008

Thursday, January 31, 2008

At risk kids lose on Labour's policies


At risk teens on the Independant Youth Benefit (IYB), will have to be either in school or on training to continue to get the benefit under Labour's new policy.

And these kids will probably be slotted into usesless training schemes that dont provide sustainable employment merely to continue their entitlement. It is understood that around 1000 are on the IYB, many of whom are not in training or at school. Even more 16-17 year olds are on the invalids benefit - and that is probably, in some instances, because they live with their parents and cant get the IYB.

The UK has a similar school leaving age policy which has been criticised in a recent policy report
This is a badly conceived policy. It is likely to further disadvantage [marginalised young people]. Young people who are enrolled in courses they who not wish to attend will be unmotivated to learn. The greatest losers are likely to be the most marginal and disadvantaged
In other words, Helen Clark’s target group.This group prediminately have TOPs courses available to them - second chance low level training for school dropouts and those with low or no qualifications, whith an educational component of unit standards.

Yet recent reports from the Ministry of Education reveal that fewer than one in three students who go to TOP courses complete even one basic unit standard - even at level one. That rate will possible be higher for Maori as 42 percent of TOP trainees are Maori. TOP programmes that focus on teens will not be able to fill their programmes due to teens preferring to go to higher quality polytechs - when they are free of charge under National.

Under Labour, it will be interesting to see how many get a level three education if the aim of the extended education is to reduce the number of teens who achieve less than level three. Under National, it would be interesting to see how Polytech pass rates (and truancy rates) are affected by troubled teen freeloaders - many of whom don't live with their parents - who are going to polytechs either to ensure thay get benefits or because they have to go to some sort of training to avoid going to secondary school.
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Clark borrows school leaving age policies from Downing St.


Helen Clark today announced a new age of 18, instead of 16, for students to either stay at school or be in approved vocational training. She is borrowing policies, not from Washington, but from Downing Street.
Raising the school leaving age to 18 in favour of giving young people "worthless" qualifications will destroy their job opportunities, said a think tank paper published as the education and skills bill gets its second reading in the Commons today.
I havent read the speech yet, but Clark is expected to comment on the school leaving age in line with this Guardian article. Here`s Ed Balls.
We must not give up on the young people who reach 16 and simply feel there is nothing out there for them. It's a shocking waste of talent and potential and it is virtually always young people from the most disadvantaged backgrounds that slip through the net.

This legislation..will give those young people better skills and a better future, reducing their chances of getting on the wrong side of the law by giving them something worth working towards

The weird thing about Clarks policy is that we have a school leaving age of 16. Many students leave school before 16. What will change by raising the school age to 18 if students arent in training - apart from an increase in truancy? I`ll be doing a post on that soon.

Oh, and look who Radio Left Wing interviews to get a reaction: Youthlaws John Hancock, who criticises Key's speech and says people are being used as a political football and has no voice on the political process. They were the comments he made when he campaigned to remove Section 59.

update speech is here Even Labour supporters think it is bad.

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Wednesday, January 30, 2008

How long will Helen be PM?


She'll lead Labour till the election
Phil Goff will roll her before the election




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It's not cool, kids


The Dont Vote Labour website is back up. It's not cool to vote Labour, apparently.

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National leader's speech


John Key's speech aiming to get all young people into work, training or education and off crime is noble.

I do have some reservations about the Fresh Start policy ( perhaps in another post) and could comment extensively about the speech but for this post I want to focus on youth training. The training announcement by Key is grounded in Labour policy like Gateway- but also extends to kids out of school, and funds the private sector to a greater extent with tougher sanctions. I suggest you read the speech.

Under the Youth Guarantee, National will provide a universal, no-cost education entitlement for all 16- and 17-year-olds so they can access school-level educational study at approved institutions. Most will remain at school, but some won't.

Labour has a similar training policy with sanctions - but its policy, in terms of targeting 16-17 year olds into training or work, is restricted to the 3125 regtistered with WINZ - and sanctions aren't applied enough and therefore there is no consequence for non compliance. And they don`t include Polytechs or Wananga.

Independant Youth Beneficiaries do not live with their parents, nor do they receive financial support from anyone. If they are in a training course that course must be less than 12 weeks or they don't qualify. Many criminals of that age live with their parents or are financially supported in other ways - so they are ineligible for the IYB and therefore not exposed to courses available from Work and Income even though they are entitled to be. These people should be registered as job seekers through WINZ and referred to such courses without going on the benefit. Legislation and allows for this such people are turned away by WINZ.

Why? Because Labour is neither enforcing or publicising current policies. National is broadening Labours policy with indications that it will be better implemented and enforced - and hopefully better publicised. Key's policy includes the 8,400 16 and 17 year olds who are not in work, education or training.

That means that most of those who are not in work, education or training are not receiving a benefit, primarily because they live with their parents - or are not sick, invalid or have kids themselves. These kids can enrol as job seekers with WINZ and access training schemes - but they don't - because WINZ doesn`t tell them to.

Some of these kids are so illiterate they cant fill in forms for the WINZ courses - so they need literacy and numeracy skills. There are no real sanctions for WINZ teens who don't turn up to these courses once referred.That's the real issue. It will be interesting to see how National will stop this pattern - and how teens who are currently not at work, training, education or recieving a benefit will be captured.

However, it's a better policy than Labour's - way better. If I had a 16 year old, who didn`t want to go to school, I`d rather he or she went to a Government funded polytech course than a TOPS course or rather than having to pay school fees, uniforms, and donations.

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Monday, January 28, 2008

referendums, extremists and motley fanatics.


I`m not sure what Green MP Sue Bradford has got against Christians.

She is worried that National will " waver to get the Christian vote" if there is a referendum on physical discipline at the election. Just 30,000 signatures are required to force that referendum.

Furthermore, she wants to know how much groups like Family First ( which is headed by a Christian) is paying for newspaper advertisements in the papers during the weekend - the same day that the particular paper concerned, the Sunday Star Times, described Family First as " religious extremists.. gathering libertarians, Act voters and other motley fanatics of that kind.", adding that FF views the referendum as a vehicle to elect Labour, and it was a "significant player at the last election".

Ironic really. Family First didn't exist at the last election and had no hand in constructing the referendum. Yet,at the same time taking their money for advertising, the SST wants to smear Family First purely because another citizen unconnected with any of the groups the editorial mentioned exercised their democratic right to initiate a referendum.

I wouldn't stand for that abuse if I was an Act voter, a libertarian or the director of Family First.

It's enough to make you vote Libertarianz.

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Sunday, January 27, 2008

Greens rocket up in latest Herald poll


Two polls, two different results.

The Greens have 9.3 percent in the latest Herald poll. That is either an inflated percentage that won't last, or some on the left and centre left are deserting the main parties for the Greens. Some floaters initially deserted Labour for National and are deciding that supporting the left may be a good idea after all - but instead of supporting Labour, they would support its most likely coalition partner unless Labour changes its leader. Many Labour supporters have been turned off their perferred party because of Helen Clark well before this poll. Yet the gap betwen the two main parties has narrowed to 8.8 percent as a result of support to the left and away from National and the Maori Party, who are on 1 percent.

This poll further indicates that National needs to take the Maori Party more seriously than any other political party if it wants to Govern. Maori Party polling means nothing given that it will win most of the Maori seats.

On the other hand the earlier Roy Morgan Poll (which polled more than twice the number of the Herald poll) shows about a third of the electorate support Labour and the Greens on 6.5 percent. The Maori Party is on 2 percent and NZ First has only been higher than 5 percent once since April .

Translated to seats in the House, assuming the Maori party gets six seats (a four seat overhang with a 123 member parliament) and Anderton and Dunne narrowly win seats, and Act gets a litte more, the minor parties will have 17 seats ( Greens 7, Maori 6, UF, 1, Anderton 1, Act 2). Curently they have 24, meaning that National would have 108 seats betwen them - National on 59 and Labour 47 seats.

On these figures, if NZ First do not get re-elected to Parliament, National will govern and won't need the Maori Party.

I think the next poll will show a reduction of support for the left, and an increase for National in line with Roy Morgan.
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Saturday, January 26, 2008

Maori Facebook


Kia Ora, here's the Maori version of face book

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Living on $8.00 a week


Judy Turner makes an outrageous claim that the average student has $8.00 a week to live on after deducting rent.

She made this assumption on the basis that $150 is the amount of a student loan for living costs, less the average rent. She`s wrong. The average student on a student loan has access to more than $150 a week - or those that are eligible would be on a student allowance, possibly working for $150 at least until the allowance abates. The reason that the average student allowance is $70.00 is because of parental income and students having it abated due to working. They have to.

Instead of trying to score political points, Turner would be better off advising students that those eligible for student allowances can get $300 a week at least without having their allowance abated and they can access all the grants and allowances that beneficiaries can get.

Those on student loans can earn whatever they are able to. For example if you are working 30 hours a week and are sitting six papers, you can get the loan and invest it and live off your earnings and interest.

In fact, if any resident got $150 a week and paid $142 of it in accommodation, they would all be entitled to temporary accommodation assistance (TAS) from Studylink or Work and Income at the very least.

I will be writing to Turner about this. Students are getting a rough deal from this Government, but none have to live on $8.00 a week.
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Friday, January 25, 2008

One in five unemployed are on a training benefit


I have been saying for a while that much of the reason the unemployment benefit numbers are low is because of the amount of people on training benefits. Those on training benefits are excluded from official dole figures. Training benefits last from six weeks to more than a year, depending on the type of training.

About one on five of those who would normally be on the unemployment benefit are on a unemployed training benefit (UBT ), thus significantly skewing the dole figures to a greater extent than those who are transferred from the dole to sickness and invalids benefits.

For example, at the end of June, 23000 were in receipt of an unemployment benefit and 6368 were in receipt of a training benefit. Some are transferred from other benefits like sickness, but these are few. Ths is because training benefits require you to be in training for 30 hours a week and if you can't work 30 hours a week because of depression or whatever, you shouldn't be able to cope with training for that period either - but some slip through.

And what happens after they finished training? What proportion enter sustainable employment? Well, the MSD staff won't say, because they don't know. However they do know that many go on to other training options or onto the sickness or unemployment benefit again. Some get part time jobs and have their benefit abated. But the MSD has no idea how many people get jobs or go to further training such as university as a result of training they put their "clients" though.

It is important to note that these figures do not include those under 18 who would normally be on the independant youth benefit. And given that half all on the unemployment benefit are over 40, and the vast majority of those on training benefits are under 40, this could mean that of all those under 40 who are eligible for the unemployment benefit and are receiving income from Work and Income, up to a quarter could be on training benefits or the reason half of all unemployment beneficaries are over 40 is because fewer of those over 40 are trained because they are tougher to train.

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Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Disappearing standards


Labour's standards haven't just lowered, some of them have disappeared.

The Standard blog has either gone or is being removed to a new server after it was outed as a Labour Party blog and hosted by Labour in its servers last week after initially claiming to be independant. Bill English has subsequently questioned Labour's knowledge of the blog.
At the very least, Labour knows who these people are. In the interests of openness and transparency, Labour should make its support public.The website appears to be a covert third-party campaign, run on the internet with Labour's full knowledge and participation.
. update The Standard has resurfaced.
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Colin James on the year ahead


Cabinet sits tomorrow and Colin James looks at the year ahead, particularly at Clark's difficulty of winning another term.
The contrast with the opening month of the three most recent election years is stark. In each of those years Labour came off large December poll leads, 15 per cent average against Jenny Shipley's fraying Government in 1999 and 11-12 per cent over the National oppositions of Bill English and Don Brash in 2002 and 2005.
This election-year Labour comes off a December average 15 per cent deficit to National, the mirror-image of 1999. And the strong economic tailwinds of 2002 and 2005 have turned round into a light but freshening headwind.

By Christmas the Cabinet was looking as frayed as Shipley's at the end of 1998.
However there are some differences. Labour is currently averaging 37 percent and falling but it got 38.74 percent at the 1999 election when its vote was rising. But the Alliance got 10 seats in Parliament, and were the third biggest party in Parliament.

That honour is likely to go to the Maori party after this year's election. Because the Alliance got the majority of the left vote that Labour did not get in 1999, the Greens got just 5.16 percent of the vote - but they won a seat, so it didnt matter. Although they may not win a seat this year, they havent got a big left vote to counteract as Labours vote is plummeting. Labour will be fighting for that Green vote. However NZ First won a seat but failed to get five percent of the vote. If it goes the same way this time NZ First would be out of Parliament if Winston Peters doesnt win his seat.

Meaning the Maori Party would be more powerful and could determine who is the Government, despite the majority of the population not being able to cast a vote for that party that is unlikely to be wasted. Only those in the Maori seats can vote for Maori party candidates in the Maori electorate.
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Monday, January 21, 2008

The Standard has been outed as a Labour Party blog

The Labour -friendly Standard blog , whose authors are all anonymous, has been outed as a Labour Party blog, possibly breaching the Electoral Finance Act.The Standard's IP address is 202.74.226.11

Accorcing to "Tane" who won't reveal his real name, nor whether he works for the EPMU, he put out a call and at the end of last year and someone from Labour - no idea who - emailed and offered them some temporary server space until "they worked something out "(well it will be temporary now they have been outed).

Let's see the e-mail.

The Labour party rented servers; and one of a block of reserved IP addresses are used to host the blog ( tap in the IP addresses 202.74.226.112 - 202.74.226.127 here) for about $300 per month.The server space was donated to the NZLP by people in the IT industry but it is unknown whether that was declared as an election expense.

The server identifies itself as mail.labour.geek.nz on port 25 and relays mail for younglabour.org.nz, thestandard.org.nz, rainbowlabour.org.nz, timbarnett.org.nz and tonymilne.org.nz. So who pays for it if it isn`t the Labour Party or the taxpayer?

Some of the Standard bloggers appear to work in the communications area for EPMU . If so, it would be interesting to see whether the EPMU is in breach of the EFA for its failure to register as a third party. Probably not. If the taxpayer is paying for it it should have a valid parliamentary crest.

Oh dear.

Wouldnt it be ironic if this blog was the first to be prosecuted under the Electoral Finance Act? But it won't be because If Labour has authorised the spending of money on The Standard they will have to include that expense in their expense return after the election.
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Saturday, January 19, 2008

transpeople


The Human Rights Commission is calling for a change in the law to add gender to the grounds of discrimination. This will more easily allow schoolchildren to change gender. I mean, legally. Only 10 or so people change genders here every year and I bet none of them are of school age.

Gender identity is implicitly included under the Human Rights Act as a prohibited ground of discrimination.

What I want to know is this: How come there are more trans people who are male - and want to change their gender to female than the other way around?

TV3 has transgender report meets mixed reaction. Mixed.

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Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Oh dear..


Two people, both of them adopted, fell in love and got married.

The couple subsequently found out that they were twins who were split up at birth and married each other without realising they were brother and sister - or that they had a twin..Their marriage may end up being annulled. At least they didn't have kids - they would have been cousins, as their parents would be both mum, dad, uncle and aunty.

Imagine drawing that family tree...

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six of the best?


A man was seen disciplining his child by a teacher who didnt like it. An off duty cop nearby reported it to the police. Six of the best? No, thats just the number of cops that turned up. And the parent got a warning on his file.

Meanwhile, a man took his son on a boat without a life jacket. He fell in the water and nearly drowned 2km from the boat he fell out of. His dad did not get a warning or a conviction. No cops turned up.

Perhaps that's because when a smacking case gets reported, all the cops in the relevant station say, " Wahoo lets go, a smacking; this will be in the news, and I wanna be there to get the heads up!"

So what does Sue Bradford have to say about the reported "flick"
This law is in place to protect children, which takes priority over inconveniencing adults. A flick on the ear can easily become a cuff around the head. Hitting a child around their ears can have serious ramifications for their hearing
.In other words, smacking a kid can easily turn out to be abuse - even if it isn`t abuse. Bradford made no mention of the six police officers, though. And given that there is a wide enough discrepancy between the witness and the parent's discription of the events for police to review the case, whose explanation of the events was the warning based on?

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Sunday, January 13, 2008

more teens on benefits but not looking for work


Lindsay Mitchell posted this table, which was a slight increase in teen benefit numbers from July last year.

National MP Judith Collins has said that there is no way that so many teens should be getting the sickness benefit. Yet even more are getting the Invalids Benefit. Why is that?

Despite the high numbers of teens on sickness and invalids benefits, the biggest number of teen beneficiaries - outside the DPB - are in the "other main benefits", which includes Emergency benefit, Training Benefit, student hardship, Independant Youth and widows benefits.

These "other main benefits" may be hiding the true number of unemployed teens who are not granted sickness or invalids benefits.

There was a push to get the unemployment benefit figure lowered several years ago, and many were transferred to sickness and invalids benefits. But many are being transferred to training benefits. What I do know is that there were 3130 transfers of 18-19 year olds from the unemployment benefit to training benefits in the year to June 2007. Many could have been transferred on a number of occassions as they did some "training-hopping" from one course to the other and WINZ has no idea if such training is increasing well being.

I`d guess many of the 18-19 year olds on "other benefits" would be on training benefits. Even if only 30 percent are on training benefits, that is still well over 650 extra officially unemployed 18-19 year olds registered with Work and Income that are not on the unemployment benefit. If 60 percent of officially unemployed 18-19 year olds are on this benefit, this means that most are on training benefits, are not work tested, and are probably not looking for work.

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Saturday, January 12, 2008

Sir Edmund Hillary


When was the last time a story on a New Zealander led all the main international papers at the same time, including the Sun, Telegraph, Guardian, Washington Post, the SMH as well as the home pages of TIME and CNN?

Has it ever happened ?

It happened today, Sir Edmund died early this morning. He is to get a state funeral. If you have time, read all the 1626 stories written today about his death and life
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Thursday, January 10, 2008

election funding: selective blogging


DPF wrote a post about a "dont vote Labour" sign saying how it breaks the Electoral Finance Act. It does. However Idiot Savant at No Right Turn responded that his post was deceitful, because such banners always broke the "long standing" law. But as DPF didn`t reveal this, I/S questioned his integrity.

But what Idiot Savant failed to point out himself was that the law is not "longstanding". The law has changed and because the law has changed, this billboard is only illegal one in every three years, whereas prior to the EFA it was illegal outside election periods as well. Furthermore if that billboard sign had been on a T-shirt, it is would also be illegal whereas prior to the Electoral Finance Act it wasn`t, even without a name and address.

THe Electoral Commission should check the Political Parties websites to see if they have approporate authorising statements. All but one do not.They too would be breaking the law. The Greens only put its one up yesterday. Mind you, lawmakers who then don`t comply with laws they pass - or current law for that matter - are pretty common in this country.

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Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Why teenage dole figures are low - and sickness and invalids beneficiaries have almost doubled


The number of teenagers on sickness benefits has doubled since 2000 and "turn a blind eye to issues in her portfolios" Minister Ruth Dyson doesn't seem to care at all. Furthermore, the Ministry of Social Development has been trying to hide figures on the number of teens getting the sickness and invalids benefits, despite several OIA requests and requests from National MP Judith Collins for figures broken down into age bands.

That could be because a few years back, Minister Maharey said that by 2007 all teens will be in either work or training that will lead to long-term economic independence and well-being. Now that it is 2008, some teens are off the Independant Youth Benefit (employment benefits to make the figures look good - even if the Household Labour Force figures say otherwise.

But the most of the rest of the teens on benefits are on sickness and invalids benefits - the rest are on the DPB. Last year to June, nearly 950 18-19 year olds went from the unemployment benefit to the sickness benefit - the biggest transfer number of any age group. Just about any unemployed who has depression can go on a sickness benefit. More teens than ever went from the unemployment benefit to the invalids benefit as well - and to do this they have to have a WINZ- funded and nonminated doctor to doctor to certify them as permanently incapacitated or unfit for any form of work for at least two years. update incorrect, Invalids beneficaries can work for up to 15 hours a week.)

Weirdly enough, this time last year, more than twice as many invalids beneficiaries were working and declaring income than sickness beneficaries. These are people who are working and at the same time are declared by WINZ nominated doctors as unfit for any type of work for at least two years. for more than 15 hours a week.

Finally the Household Labour force put Maori Youth unemployment at 14.1 percent. That doesnt worry Ruth Dyson at all because she probably thinks most of them are students.

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Monday, January 07, 2008

The Maori Party will be the most influential party of the election


Last election the Maori Party was described by Helen Clark as "the last cab off the rank". This year they will be coalition makers, as they are the only party with substance that can court both the left and the right. It is quite possible that the Minister of Maori Affairs could come from this party after the election as part of a post-election coalition deal. Both National and Labour's political advisors will be courting the Maori Party this year and you can bet that the Maori seats will not be on the agenda, but the Electoral Finance Act will be.

From a voters perspective, it is ironic that most of the population will not be able to vote for any of the candidates of the most influential party and will chose not to vote for the party with their party vote for fear of it being a wasted vote.

More later.

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Sunday, January 06, 2008

Beneficiary debt


Here's something I know a little bit about.

National's Judith Collins is concerned that the Ministry of Social Development has doubled the financial resources in managing debt, but debt is still rising.

Judith Collins notes that the MSD in its 2005/6 financial review said it was creating a debt strategy. In its annual report the following year it said the same thing.

Let me tell you, there is no new "debt strategy" that has been implemented. The current strategy is not even being implemented. the MSD can't work out how much is due to fraud, abuse of the benefit system, or overpayment by MSD staff. Ruth Dyson said in Parliament the strategy to reduce debt is to get beneficiaries into work. Yet those most indebted are domestic purposes beneficiaries and sickness and invalid beneficiaries who are less likely to get work. Invalids beneficiaries aren't even supposed to be able to work.

The growth in benefit debt since Labour took office is staggering. In 1999, DPB recipients owed $90 million. - now $120 million. Sickness beneficiaries owed $20 million - now $49 million. Invalid beneficiaries in 1999 owed $18 million - now $48 million.

Beneficiary debt is rising for three reasons: More people need extra interest free loans, WINZ case managers are making too many overpayments and not recovering debts of beneficiaries quickly enough, and the debt unit is not efficiently recovering debt. Its cost more to employ the staff to recover the debts than the actual amount recovered.

It us inmportant to note that the debt unit doesn't even get involved with debts of beneficiaries - the unit only works with people who are off the benefit or student allowance, but the problem with the MSD is the left hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing. An example.

I am a student and get an abated student allowance. I am also paying off a small debt (well, it was actually an interest free loan). I got a letter from the debt unit stating that I owe them a debt. The amount of the outstanding debt on the letter was incorrect and the debt unit had no idea why. But it was also the point I realised that my student allowance had been incorrectly cancelled, as that debt was being deducted from that allowance. Yet I was incorrectly told by the debt unit that I was getting the student allowance - even after it was cancelled.

So what will National do differently to recover debt? Well, Collins didn't exactly say. But it will get worse unless more people pay more debt more quickly. But why should they?

Perhaps the debt unit should be involved in recovering all beneficiary debt because it is clear that Case Managers are not recovering enough debt. OTOH they may well be recovering more debt than the debt unit. Judith Collins should really be finding out how many former beneficiaries who have a debt are not making regular repayments because the case managers charged with setting cancelled beneficaries debt are not doing so and the debt unit is not following things up quickly enough.

update Even Bill Ralston gets it wrong when he says
Here's a thought - that $761 million, if recovered, would make a nice start in tax cuts for people who work for a living.
This implies that the debt is owed by people that do not work for a living. In many cases that is not the case.

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Friday, January 04, 2008

Electoral Finance Laws made to be broken

Well, Its January and we are now in election campaign mode. Graeme Edgeler over at Kiwiblog maintains that the Electoral Commission under the Electoral Act was required to report to the police any time they suspected a breach of the Electoral Act had been committed. They didn’t. Instead, if a minor breach was discovered, they’d help the lawbreakers follow the law because such lawbreaking is so inconsequential that it is not worth prosecuting.

So, in 2008, if you spend $20,000 on election advertisements without registering, or set up a website called Dont Vote Labour (and gets someone to do a site called Vote Labour linking directly to the former site) and your campaign comes to the attention of the Electoral Commission who tells you you should have registered or asks you to pull your site, and you do so, that vetos your lawbreaking, even if you were aware of the law in the first place. However this site is perfectly legal

Obviously, like the smacking legislation, this means in such cases there is no consequence in breaking the law if such lawbreaking is deemed to be inconsequential or insignificant. So I could break the law and its okay because even though it is illegal, it is unlikely I will be prosecuted if I stop what I am doing. Instead I could ask a friend to do it on my behalf and set teh ball rolling again.

If it is alright for lawmakers to make electoral laws in this fashion, why can't they amend laws to state that those who get caught speeding can get off if they agree to slow down in future.

The biggest slogan of the 2008 election campaign will be "Don`t vote Labour". You can be sure of it.
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