BIG NEWS: 05/01/2008 - 06/01/2008

Friday, May 30, 2008

Academic attacks the Maori seats


The Business Round Table has just released a report [PDF] by Canterbury Law Professor Philip Joseph that recommends the abolition of Maori Parliamentary seats.

The Maori Party has responded, calling for the Maori seats to be entrenched. Imagine a system where the Maori seats are entrenched but the Maori roll isn't? That would be silly. But they do make one good point
A strong and independent Maori voice in the Parliament guarantees Maori views are heard, if not heeded, on all issues. That’s good for our people, it’s good for democracy – and it’s the last thing the Business Round Table wants
Joseph argues that Maori seats based on ethnicity have provided effective and proportional representation for Maori and so therefore the seats are not needed.

Yet he does not define what "effective representation" actually is. Is it a Maori bum on a Parliamentary seat? If so, how do we know whether that Maori identifies with the Maori constituency - for example Clem Simich, perhaps; or is effective - think Alamein Kopu.

Joseph appears to think that bums on seats is effective representation as long as it's proportional, which is perhaps why he states that if the Maori Party were to win all the Maori seats in 2008 it "will not make Maori representation any more effective overall". To him, Maori bums on seats in a party that has Maori interests at heart is no more effective representation than the same amount of Maori bums in a opposition party like, say, UnitedFuture?

If a Maori Party were in Government or had the balance of power in certain votes, it is likely that Maori representation would be more effective than in an small non-Maori opposition party, you would think.

Furthermore, the Maori seats are not based on ethnicity - if so why not have Asian seats - they are based on indigenity.

If the Maori seats were removed, we would have no constituent Maori MPs in Parliament, and Maori representation will not be proportional to the population .Joseph maintains that if the Maori seats and roll roll disappear, it is almost certain that there will be more Maori electorate MPs in Parliament.

Of course that's not guaranteed, but Joseph didn't say that.

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Kiwi Party secretary needs a jolly good smack


The Kiwi Party- that’s the Larry Baldock party, not the Family/Destiny one - has forgotten to apply for free broadcasting time for this year’s election. Obviously their smacking referendum is more important than talking to the public about getting into parliament.

Despite having three former MP’s in the party, one of them being acting party secretary Bernie Ogilvy, you have to wonder about their priorities. Perhaps the smacking referendum is taking up too much of this party`s time. They won't get anywhere near Parliament if they continue to poll just 0.1% more than the Christian Heritage Party, a party that doesn`t even exist

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Why attempt to fix something that ain't broke?


Earlier this month, National announced that it intended to seek a referendum on our electoral system. But it indicated it was not about to revert to First Past the Post, but if people want a change from MMP, the range of proportional representation (PR) electoral systems will be up for grabs - SM, STV, MMP etc. Problem is that most don't even understand MMP and so how would they understand Single Transferable Vote, (STV) or Supplementary Member (SM), a cross between MMP and FPP, or any other PR system without public education campaign?

Many interpret a referendum as a platform to decide whether to return to First Past the Post or not. That would be a mistake. In 1990, National got 69 percent of the seats with 48 percent of the vote, and in 1993, our last FPP election, The Alliance got 18.3% of the vote, but got the same amount of seats as NZ First: two. Had it been an MMP election The Alliance would have got 23 seats and NZ First 10 seats.

If you are reading this and prefer the FPP electoral system, why on earth would you want to support such a disproportionate system? Why fix something that ain't broke?

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Thursday, May 29, 2008

Smacking: and the ODT website


The Otago Daily Times has upgraded its website , so I have added to the RSS feed on Flock.

This story takes a look at a poll on smacking commissioned by Curia for Family First.

In the poll, 48% of parents said they smacked their child in the past year. But what some people didn't know was that Curia did a poll last year as well, with 78% saying they would smack their child.

But a question saying that parents would smack their kids, to them saying that they did smack their kids in the past year is an entirely different question.

Just like I would thump someone if they broke into my house, but I haven't done so in the past year.

That seems to have been lost on some journalists.

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Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Fiscal drag is part of the Government's fiscal strategy


Keith Ng has done a good post on the budget, analysing the Governments tax cuts. Go and read it. In short, if you`re earning more than $47,000, you've just had a pledge that your overpayment - or is that an interest free force d loan to the Government - is to be repaid back to you but over three years. This, in an attempt to win your vote this year. Here's the cheat sheet:

* Fiscal drag is the increase in the average tax rate (*not* the amount of tax paid) caused by the tax system failing to keep up with wage increases.

* Fiscal drag is not a right-wing conspiracy. It is real. It is significant. It's a part of the Government's fiscal strategy.

* Fiscal drag means people pay a greater proportion of their income in tax. That does not mean that people are worse off, since income is rising, too.

* Labour's tax cuts will negate the fiscal drag of the last eight years for everyone earning over $47,000 per year (22% of tax payers). For those earning under $47,000 (71% of tax payers), it will be greater than the amount lost to fiscal drag.

It is noted that WFF payment is not included in this analysis. If you're earning a more than $47,000, you've just paid for your tax cut. Congratulations, you don't really get a tax cut at all.

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Monday, May 26, 2008

You will always have the poor with you


Labour has decided that beneficiaries without kids are people after all. Although it is not going to increase benefits, it will assist those who realise that if they have run out of food, they can seek WINZ assistance by altering the annual limit to food, particularly the annual $200 limit for single childless people on the sickness benefit, most whom should really be on the dole looking for work.

But it's not widely known that any two parent family with kids getting less than $61,300 a year can get up to $165 a week off WINZ for assistance with their mortgage, rates and insurance - or rent - via the accommodation supplement provided they have less than $10,000 in the bank - and if they have essential maintenance costs such as getting a plumber in for a leaky shower, or essential building work which brings down the balance below $10,000, they can recoup those costs as well. If by chance the maintenance is extensive and you have to take out a bank loan to pay for them, the weekly repayments to the bank can be added on as a second mortgage to assist with that as well.

Furthermore, if that family earns less than $702 a week - thats approx. $36,500 a year - they can get up to $450.00 in free food if they run out of money. That's equivalent to 72% of Cullen's annual tax cut (October 2008) for those earning under $35,000.

The low income family can also get an interest free loan to pay the power bill if they are threatened with a disconnection notice. Actually, you don't have to run out of money, if you have $1534.76 in the bank, you can still get a food grant -but that money in the bank will have to have been earmarked for something else - like paying the credit card, rates, motor vehicle repairs, or another essential bill.

This is a Big News public service announcement. Thank you for reading Big News.

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Sunday, May 25, 2008

What a laugh


This is weird. A young guy goes and gets his licence. It comes back with his name on it - but a picture of an elderly lady.

So he vists his local newspaper. Sure it will make a good story, he thinks, an old woman pictured on his licence. But the story gets better. One of the paper's sub editors recognises the woman on the licence photo.

It was her mum.
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Saturday, May 24, 2008

Red faces at Crown Law


What on Earth is going on at Crown Law? The Crown Law office, headed by the Solicitor-General, is the official legal advisor to Ministers and to the public service. Short of getting a judgment from the courts, a Crown Law opinion has always been considered a weighty and influential document. But events this week have seen new questions being asked about the competence and impartiality of the Office.

The Electoral Finance Act now places firm restrictions on campaign expenditure by political parties for the whole of Election Year. It also requires third parties that intend to place more than $12,000 worth of election advertising to register their intentions and provide relevant details. After registration by the Electoral Commission, they may then spend up to $120,000 on election-related advertising. But the Act is clear that a person that is “involved in the administration of the affairs of a party” may not register as a third party. Otherwise it would be simple to rort the expenditure restrictions simply by registering, for example, the John Key for Prime Minister Society as a third party and spending $120,000 promoting the National Party cause. Then repeating the exercise as many times as the budget permits.

Last month, the nation’s largest union, the EPMU, applied to the Commission for registration. Yet the EPMU is affiliated to the Labour Party, and its Secretary Andrew Little sits on the Labour Executive. The Electoral Commission sought advice from Crown Law. And Crown Law advised that the restrictions in the EFA (S13(2)(f)(i)) did not apply to the union because the Act restricted “persons” and an organisation like the EPMU could not therefore fall within the definition.

The Commission, headed by former Justice McGeechan, followed the Crown Law advice, but, clearly apprehensive as to its quality, very sensibly left a period for legal challenges to play out before giving the EPMU registration. And this week the High Court very predictably overturned the Commission’s decision, and exposed the Crown Law advice for the shonky piece of work it was.

Now, there will be red faces over at Crown Law. Justice McKenzie’s “declaration” that the word “person” “has the meaning given to it by S29 of the Interpretation Act 1999” rather served to underline the fact that the legal definition of “person” was hardly in doubt from the outset. Quite how Crown Law had managed to come up with an interpretation that would have rendered the expenditure caps in the EFA totally meaningless boggles the mind.

But this is not the first time Crown Law has had difficulty with the EFA . Read the rest here

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Bang go the tax cuts - one day after they are announced. No one with a mortgage is better off


Bollard has announced that the Reserve Bank is to delay lowering the OCR until at least after the election because of the tax cuts in the budget. Or was it because the IMF said to. Or was it because he doesn`t want to lose his job for repeatedly exceeding inflation targets.

The economy is now in a pot hole and now no one with a mortgage will be better off as a result of tax cuts purely because Bollard wants to keep his job.

That's because what many homeowners get in one pocket from tax cuts may be cancelled out by a delay in reducing interest rates. So although the Government is spending all the money, we're no better off. Except, of course, if you are a pensioner and you've paid off the mortgage.

Michael Cullen supports the IMF report. He is more concerned about trumping a National tax policy than he is for the struggling average Kiwi bloke trying to stay afloat paying their mortgages, putting food on the table and clothes on their children's backs.

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Friday, May 23, 2008

"The Doctor" - The official Budget 2008 song



On a warm autumn arvo with a Budget bound for nowhere,
We tuned into the Doctor; we were almost put to sleep.
So we took turns a starin', out the window at the darkness,
til boredom overtook us, when he began to speak.

He said, folks, I’ve made a living out of keeping people’s taxes,
And knowin' what their costs were by the cold stare in their eyes.
So if you don't mind my sayin', I can see you’re out of patience.
For the sake of the party vote, I’ll give you some ad-ons.
SEARCH NZ JOBS
Search Businesses Check Your SALARY Level
NZ TAX RATES & CODES
Click here

So I handed him my ear and he drooled on most of Thursday.
Then he kept on talkin' but no more came to light.
And the night news got deathly boring, and his words were all depression.
Said, if you’re gonna stick with us, folks, your money’s gonna stay awfully tight.

You got to know when to hold em, know when to fold em,
Know when to walk away and know when to run.
You ever count your money when you’re sittin' at the table.
There’ll be pretty much the same amount, with this Budget done.

Now every Member knows that the secret to survivin'
Is knowin' what to throw at you and knowing how to speak.
Cause every Budget’s a winner and every Budget’s a loser,
And the best voters can hope for is to not fall asleep.

So when he’d finished speakin', he turned back towards his Leader,
Crushed out her long career that was landing in a heap.
And somewhere in the darkness the Doctor’s Budget may've broken even.
But in his final words we saw that Labour wouldn’t keep.

You got to know when to hold em, know when to fold em,
Know when to walk away and know when to run.
You ever count your money when you’re sittin' at the table.
There’ll be pretty much the same amount, with this Budget done.
source

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Is that it? Will most Pacific Islanders still not realise it is an election year?


Michael Cullen today announced a three-year tax cutting package, with workers on the average $45,000 wage taking home an extra $16 a week from October - the price of a movie ticket.

The first stage would see the new 12.5% rate apply on income up to $14,000 from October 1, rising to $17,500 on April 1, 2010. The 33% threshold would rise to $40,000 from October 1, and the top threshold to $70,000.

Will that make me vote Labour? Not likely. On the April 09 figures, I`d get more than three times as much as much of an increase through WFF if I had another child. And, the price of chewing gum has increased...

For those on the top tax rate, it doesn't even compensate for inflation since 2000. The 33% threshold has been raised from 38,000 to 48,000. This 33% threshold has been adjusted to about what it should be if the threshold had been inflation adjusted.
It's crumbs today, jam lightly spread in two years time. Cullen will be toast in November.

Here's the pathetic pittance you get (thanks to DPF).


And if you want to be more specific with your own income try this calculator. It calculates your current tax and your increases over the various stages.

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Thursday, May 22, 2008

Church group tells Electoral Commission to get stuffed - and rightly so


Six churches are funding a $100,000 campaign on social justice but although the Electoral Commission has suggested they register as third parties under the Electoral Finance Act, they are refusing to do so. David Farrar asks , Will the churches be sent to jail?.

The answer, is of course, no. If anyone was to be sent to jail it would be the NZ Council of Christian Social Services (NSCCSS), whose material it is. It is sending leaflets and posters to the churches next week as part of this campaign. You can view the material here. I`m of the view that this does not breach the Electoral Finance Act.

Sure, the NZCCSS is encouraging people to think about policies and ask questions of politicians. Their material is not election advertising because the NZCCSS is not "encouraging or persuading voters to vote, or not to vote, for a type of party or for a type of candidate that is described or indicated by reference to views, positions, or policies that are or are not held, taken, or pursued. That is because there is no evidence that the NZCCSS is encouraging people to ask politicians questions with the express intent of using those discussions as a platform for a voting choice. It is as simple as that.

What this shows is that the NZCCSS has a better idea of how to apply the Electoral Finance Act than the Electoral Commission does.
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The EPMU decision


It's been a bit of a hectic week hence the sparse blogging but I`m back now.

The High Court decision [PDF] that the EPMU is a "natural person" under the Electoral Finance Act means that the Electoral Commission now has to determine whether the EPMU is involved in the affairs of a political party before deciding whether to register it as a Third Party. It also means that the Crown Law was wrong when it said that the EMPU was not a "natural person".

If the Electoral Commission determines that the EPMU is not involved in the affairs of Labour and registers it, I hope David Farrar, who took the action, will object. EPMU boss Andrew Little has been lined up to be Labour's president, should Mike Williams go, Little is on on Labour's governing council, almost stood as a candidate, and the EPMU is an affiliate of Labour. EPMU communications are constantly anti National, so it is hardly a politically independent union. If the EPMU is deemed not to be involved in the affairs of Labour, then there would be no reason why groups such as ACT on Campus can register as a third party either, given they are less involved in the affairs of Act than the EPMU is in Labour's affairs.

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Monday, May 19, 2008

Government to spend millions to get National voters on top tax rate into first home


Poor one income families on $85,000 who can't budget enough to scrape 5% of a deposit on a house are to get an interest free loan of up to 30% of the value of their first house if they live in Auckland, and lower if they live in selected areas outside Auckland.

How many will this policy assist? Well, not many if the price of houses doesn't drop substantially. There's not going to be enough houses for sale in Otara, Naenae and Porirua for people who'd want to park their two nice cars in the garage, not on the street. These houses won't have double garages as regional house cap prices are Queenstown $385,000, Auckland $305,000, Wellington $260,000, Christchurch $255,000 and Nelson $240,000.Anyone tried to buy a three bedroom house in Auckland for less than $300,000, even without a garage? The only place you can get a house in the greater Wellington area for less than $260,000 this weekend is in Porirua or Naenae.

Here's how this scheme may work: You're on a low income - say $45,000. You find a little house in Naenae for $250,000. The Government contributes 20%, you contribute 5%. Mortgage is $187,500 and at 10% interest, fortnightly payment over a 25 year loan period is $790.00 -so you`re paying 60% of your net income in mortgage payments. If two years later you are forced into a mortgagee sale, the government gets its share of the capital gain. If there is no capital gain - say the house sells for $240,000, way under it's valuation, you are left with nothing, having blown $50,000 for no return - and so has the Government - all to assist a family that now doesn't have a house nor can they afford to buy one, but would have been able to keep their Government -funded one had they saved a bigger deposit to start with.

That's why only this scheme is for those - if one income families - on the top tax rate. Most families with children on an income of less than $45,000 wouldn't be able to afford the mortgage. Those without children may be a little luckier.

This policy is like enacting a policy for civil unions where only one couple gets a civil union. It will only assist a very small amount of middle income families - probably childless - who should have been able to save some money like others in their situation. They will probably be National voters waiting on a tax cut.

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Saturday, May 17, 2008

Government assumes we are willing to take lower wages

This from the Wall Street Journal. It is run in full.

Global-warming alarmists tend to understate the true costs of cutting greenhouse gas emissions. So give credit to New Zealanders, who seem poised to give the rest of us a real-life illustration of those costs.

This month, Wellington is debating a cap-and-trade scheme to meet its Kyoto Protocol targets. Because New Zealand is already a low carbon-dioxide emitter, the bulk of its emissions come from agricultural sources, such as, well, sheep. So the government is proposing to implement caps not only on carbon dioxide from industry but also on methane and nitrous oxide from farms. If passed, the Kiwi plan would be the broadest cap-and-trade program to date.

As in smaller schemes in the U.S. and European Union, the government would cap the country's emissions at a level allowable under Kyoto, and then distribute tradeable credits to businesses and farmers. Low emitters could sell excess credits, while high emitters could buy credits to cover their "extra" emissions. Under Kyoto, New Zealand committed to reduce its emissions to 1990 levels, in effect a 30% reduction from expected emissions in 2012.

Meeting those targets will be hard. New Zealand already uses a wide range of hydropower and renewable energy to cut carbon dioxide use. For the agricultural gases, new kinds of fertilizers might help, but only to a point. For the rest of the cuts, farmers will have to persuade cows and sheep to emit less – or have fewer cows and sheep.

The cost, for farmers and industry alike, is likely to be prohibitive. The New Zealand Institute of Economic Research, an independent consulting firm, recently estimated that the government's plan would result in 22,000 job losses by 2012, or 1% of today's employment. That translates into NZ$4.6 billion ($3.6 billion) annually in lost GDP, or a NZ$3,000 cut in each household's annual spending.

This analysis assumes that as greenhouse gas fees make Kiwi industry less competitive globally, businesses and jobs will move overseas. The government disputes this conclusion, mainly because its own analyses assume New Zealanders will be willing to take lower wages. That's debateable, to say the least.

That aside, give the Kiwis credit for honesty. Having signed up for Kyoto, they're actually talking about shouldering the costs of meeting their commitments. Whether or not they end up regretting it, other countries will now have a chance to see what the anticarbon crusade does to an economy.
HT Lindsay Mitchell

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Friday, May 16, 2008

Corruption discovered in Immigration, and not for the first time


Last night, TVNZ reported that a third of the staff of the Pacific division of the Immigration Service have been involved in a raft of offences including bribery and fraud. This was the division that Mary Anne Thompson had a hand in after she got the top Immigration job in 2004. Two months after she got the job, she was firing off e-mails to the NZIS office in Suva asking for advice on getting family in Kiribati to New Zealand, breaking her own code of conduct. Then she reportedly had a hand in this Pacific unit where many of the staff were sacked for corruption.

Remember when former Immigration Minister Tuariki Delamere alleged a while back that corrupt officials had fast tracked applications in 2002, possibly taking bribes in the process. Well, the Government conducted an investigation of 89 cases.Of the cases, 39 were either declined or processed in two days, and of the 50 remaining ones - including six spouse applications - half were filled in by one trustworthy immigration officer and were selected because they looked in order and had the paperwork attached, and were produced by selected immigration agents who had a track record of producing quality applications. How could they not find that there was no evidence of undue influence, let alone corruption.

Also in 2003 its then communications manager Ian Smith made his infamous “lie in unison” comment.

Smith who wrote on an official document that he was badly let down by his colleagues because “everyone had agreed to lie in unison but all the others caved in and I was the only one left singing the original song”.

The State Services Commission should hurry up and do it's report. The public can hardly have confidence in the public service to administer the Immigration Act impartially and without fear or favour.

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Former Immigration head did not have a PhD as claimed in her CV


Wow. This is staggering. Another John Davies (from Maori Television Service fame). But worse. Mary-Anne Thompson resigned because she was feeling the political heat over her CV and it has been confirmed by the London school of Economics that she did not have a doctorate from that college after all.But she does have an MA from Victoria. So it appears she doctored her CV to get a role in the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, after being appointed chief economist at the Ministry of Maori Affairs in 1990. Who were the bosses that employed her? The Immigration Service didn't even have a CV on file, after Thompson was quickly shifted to the Immigration service from the DPMC in 2004 after reportedly falling out with Heather Simpson.

Cullen admitted in Parliament that the Government found out about the allegations against Thompson in April 2007, but said it was a matter for the department's chief executive. Given this latest news it is no employment matter. It's gone way past that now. Helen Clark will be glad she`s in Japan.

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Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Another corrupt Government Official escapes censure by resigning

It's good that Mary Anne Thompson has resigned as the head of the Immigration Service head. She should have been sacked. She was, after all, found to have broken her own department rules while getting residency for family members, bringing them into the country without visas and hiding them in her own home. Now she has resigned with all her legal entitlements.

It will be interesting to see how the investigation by the State Services Commission is handled.

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Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Government gives 20 hours free ECE so kids can sit in front of the TV


The Government's 20 hour free ECE policy is supposed to be about childhood education. But not all caregivers provide this childhood education, and some services provided are no different to a baby sitting service.

I know of one provider whose caregivers charge a top up fee for kids to sit and watch videos, take the kids to playgroup - and when they are tired, sleep. In other words, the unregistered caregivers are doing tasks which have nothing to do with the Ministry of Education, and the fact that it is "20 hours free" means, for wealthier families, the Government pays most of it instead of parents.

So you can see that the purpose of 20 hours free is not education of children, it is getting mothers back to work.

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Saturday, May 10, 2008

My experience with our public health system


Yesterday I went to hospital to have an operation courtesy of the public health system. The operation had been delayed once, but was done within six months. After I got wheeled into the operating theatre, they flipped a coin to see which eye they were to operate on, and so it was very fortunate that they operated on the correct eye. All staff and doctors were pleasant and cheerful - so it went pretty well. An hour or so later while in recovery, I got a couple of weak instant coffees and a biscuit that dissolved as soon as it was dunked.

While still under anaesthetic in recovery, I subsequently got chatting to one of the nurses - a democrat who had come over from the States two years ago to live and work. Lovely chap. He loves Helen Clark: "All politicians lie , but she's the best representative you could ever have in this country". He praised the freedom of speech here but was pretty ignorant of our Electoral Finance Act, which curbs that freedom. He was just glad he was living in a country that was more liberal and abortion wasn't such an issue. He appeared to take more than a passing interest in politics and thought Clinton was history in the primaries. So he is another Labour import who praised our easier access to politicians while not actually benefiting from that access.

After I had "recovered" in recovery, probably more from the nurse's comments on Clark than the operation itself, one of the doctors offered me a lift home - a friend, he lived around the corner from me and was commuting between hospitals. It`s not often you get a ride to and from hospital and get operated on by the person who picks you up, so all in all it was pretty good service from our local health system. The only downers were that when I rang the day before to confirm the operation nobody was there to process the call - and I now feel like I`ve been in a fight at the pub.
actually, no coins were involved - the public health system is free
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Friday, May 09, 2008

Record number working while collecting the Invalids Benefit


This quarter's benefit numbers are here. Unemployment has gone up but this increase has not translated to the unemployment benefit as the majority of the 29,000 people who left jobs in the past quarter don`t qualify for a benefit as they have a working partner or are not looking for work.

One thing hasn't changed. Just as many people are working while collecting a benefit. Those on the Invalids Benefit are supposed to be on it because they are unable to work more than 15 hours a week, although they can trial out a job for more than 15 hours a week for a limited time. Yet more than 11,000 people are collecting income on the Invalids Benefit -the most ever. In fact 67% more people are working while collecting the Invalids Benefit than those working and collecting the Unemployment Benefit and Sickness Benefit combined.

Someone should ask how many Invalids beneficiaries have been working for for more than 15 hours a week for longer than a month, and if so, why they are on the Invalids Benefit. Some of them will be blind, which is fine, others should be on the sickness or unemployment benefit. I have a friend who was on the Invalids Benefit and got a full time job. She was no invalid - she was studying towards her PhD.

Meanwhile the Household Labour Force stats are here. Of these aged 20-24, there's is an 7000 increase in unemployed, up from 11,000 to 18,000 in just one quarter. Given that December and March has the highest employment growth of any quarter, why this year is there a 29,000 drop in employment in seasonally adjusted terms?

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Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Internet Explorer is BAD!


Just had a look at this blog on Internet Explorer, it looks awful. Don`t use IE. Use Firefox or even better, Flock. But does anyone know how to fix a blog that centres everything when viewed on IE? If so please contact me.
Update: Fixed Thanks Michael.
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The Waihopai spy base attack


I haven't blogged about the three men that deflated a dome at the Waihopai spy base until now, partly because I happen to know one of the three pretty well, as well as some of their public supporters.

But I'm pleased they`re bailed. They`ll be back in court on June 9. They should never have been behind bars in the first place as bail is a human right. According to s24 of the Bill of Rights everyone charged with an offence must be "released on reasonable terms and conditions unless there is just cause for continued detention". The only reasons for continuing to detain someone are a risk of non-appearance, a risk that they will offend further while on bail, or a risk that they will interfere with witnesses.

Given that none of these factors were apparent, and these men are currently legally innocent, why were they in jail for five days? Bail is a right - it's parole that is a privilege.

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Monday, May 05, 2008

Most Pacific Islanders and young people don`t know 2008 is an election year - but many know about a smacking petition, apparently


A survey by the Electoral Commission found that 55% of Pacific people, 45% of Asians and 41% of Maori don`t know 2008 is an election year.

Nearly 240,000 people are not even enrolled to vote. I wonder how many of these people signed the Citizens Initiated Referenda on the smacking petition, given that you have to be on the roll to have a valid signature.

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Average family spends $15 a week more than they earn, wealthy families even more due to increased interest rates


A study by the website interest.co.nz has calculated that a family on an average wage paying an average mortgage is now spending $15 more a week than they are earning. An average household has two kids and an average family is wage is $72,000, with the average pay increase in the past four years being $8,600 - or 12% on a $72,000 income.Also the figures assume a family on $52k has after tax income increase of $9204, and a family on 92k a $6448 increase.

On 72k you get about the same amount of family assistance as the In Work Payment - about $3600 a year. On $36,000 - half that income - you get about $10,000 a year in WFF - without bracket creep. So I assume that "earning" include WFF payments, because if it doesn't, i.e. either means that those on lower incomes are saving more than those on higher incomes or spending way more then $15 per week more than they earn.

UPDATE It does. Bernard Hickey's blog compares families on three incomes ranging from $52,500 - $92,000. They all spend the same on petrol ($66 a week, up from $40 in 2004), and on food ($164 per week, up from $142).So petrol and food has gone up $48 per week for all income earners. Food hits equally.

The difference is in the mortgage. A family on a higher income has a higher mortgage. But even in 2004 families on 52k were was spending more than they were earning because they bought houses that were too expensive and were mortgaged to the hilt. Increased interest rates has just made that worse to the extent that even the average family on $72k now has a deficit.A family on $52k spends $208 on a $112k mortgage, ( up $60), a family on $92k, $400 on a $213k mortgage(up $116). For low income families with a mortgage, a reduction in interest rates would soften the wallet more than a measly Government tax cut.

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It is easy feeding your family on $170 a week even if you don't shop the specials, but eat one piece of toast for breakfast and one sandwich for lunch


The Sunday Star Times shows how to feed a family of four on $170 a week, which is a little over what we spend feeding our family of four each week. What is interesting that the supplied, and unpriced $170 shopping list only includes food. Ours also inclues essential supermarket purchases as toilet paper, cleaning materials, dishwashing liquid and washing power, nappies/ pullups - and if we can afford it, alcohol and magazines.

The Menu is pretty good, but it is hardly filling. Would you eat one piece of toast for breakfast? You can get away without peaches with your morning porridge; we have two sandwiches for lunch instead of one. The meat volume is very conservative - you can get double that amount of meat at the same price if you know where to shop the specials.

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Sunday, May 04, 2008

Grand Theft Auto: Remember kids, don`t kill those prostitutes, okay.


It's clear. Grand Theft Auto IV is only R18 until the buyer walks out the door.It can easily be sold for those under 18, but not with those under 18. The destinction being - according to Chief Censor Bill Hastings, is that if a parent walks in with their 15-year-old, don't sell it to them because it is obviously who is going to watch it. If the parent walks in alone, that's fine.

The two arguments, in my mind go like this: If this game should not be played by those under 18, and it sells out every day this week nationwide, and many of those playing this game are under 18, it should be banned. The other argument is why should a game be banned for adults purely because kids want to play it.

But this appears to be the argument of the Chief Censor: Of games are banned by the Chief Censor, all involved having to kill people - and the more gruesome the killing the more rewarded you are. In Grand Theft Auto you don't have to kill people. So while you can hire a prostitute, have sex, then run her over or shoot her, you don't have do that to advance in the game. You can stop at the sex. And the fact that you don't have to kill anyone (or hire prostitutes) is the stated reason why Grand Theft Auto IV is not banned, despite the Chief Censor stating in an interview he does not believe that kids who play the game will just "drive around and look at the architecture".

So kids, what the Chief Censor is effectively telling you is that you can play the game that your parents gave you, just don't kill anyone, particularly prostitutes- and if you are tempted to do that, don't hire the prostitutes, m'kay - even though we think you will anyway. At the end of the day the law is an ass. It has never been enforced since its enactment in 1994.

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Saturday, May 03, 2008

I don't know the details honey; I just write the policy and ask for the money


This month is New Zealand Music Month and Shihad has topped the charts with Flight of the Conchords at number two. Great start. Judith Tizard was at the Matterhorn last night to promote NZ Music Month . You can see her singing with Chris Knox here. She usually has a music quiz she sends off to MPs every year, but the Dominion Post asked her some questions to test own knowledge. You can take that quiz here. Tizard got 40% correct. I got more than that.

When the reporter advised her of her success rate, she said: "I don't know the details honey, I just write the policy and ask for the money".

At least she can rhyme. She should do a rap and form a band called Judith and the Dykes. She may do better than Moana and the Ministers.

If you want to hear some good music by a Kiwi, check out Steve Hill. He's sold more recordings than just about every other Kiwi musician but betcha Judith Tizard has never heard of him. Neither has the NZ Music Commission who is responsible for NZ Music month.

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Friday, May 02, 2008

Goodbye Firefox - hello Flock


Well, I have now decided to use Flock as my default browser - and RSS feeds, now I have most of my tabs and RSS feeds in. Flock is a social networking browser and is good for news and new media junkies, bloggers and blog readers, as well as linking to social networking sites like Facebook. It even has a social surfing programme called Me.dium which is all about about making it easier for people to find information together, and see each other moving around the internet - in real-time.

You can download Flock for free here. Give it a try. Then add Big News to your RSS feed with a simple couple of clicks and you`ll have a link to the update on your sidebar every morning.

Its just a shame I will have to use Internet Explorer for work.

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It's business time for Flight of the Conchords


Flight of the Conchord's album debuts at number 3 in the US charts.

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Electoral Finance action: Is something going on here?


This letter was published in the Dominion Post this morning.

I agree that Labour has no respect for the truth ( Editorial, April 23). Telling lies - or being publicly caught lying as Labour President Mike Williams was - is not a sackable offence unless you are a Minister and change your story. Williams is a party official, so has not been sacked despite changing his story.

Could another reason why Williams has not been replaced is that EPMU secretary Andrew Little, lined up to be his replacement, is having his application for independent Third Party status considered under the Electoral Finance Act? Mr Little might remain in both positions if successful, meaning a party president could also be the financial agent of a Third Party allied with Labour, overtly campaigning against National - all the while while maintaining its independance.

Mr Little is quick to highlight National indiscretions, erroneously calling them lies, but when Labour officials are proven to lie, he is silent. Your editorial claimed that the rest of New Zealand has not lost respect for truth.

Most have, however, lost respect for those who disregard the truth for absolute power.

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Thursday, May 01, 2008

What's the point of pollsters registering intentions to vote for a party that doesn't exist?


The Herald digi poll is out. National is ahead of Labour, of course, and the Greens reach the 5% threshold. The Maori Party is polling nearly double that of NZ First. The Kiwi Party is on 0.2, twice that of United Future.

The Christian Heritage Party, which doesn`t exist, is also polling 0.2% , twice that of United Future. One wonders what supporters of the Christian Heritage Party will do when they get to the polling booth.

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