BIG NEWS: 02/01/2010 - 03/01/2010

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Students who fail courses

A NZ Herald story headed Students who fail could lose their loans doesn't tell the full story. If students fail half their courses they could lose their loans.Student allowances are chopped if students failed more than half of their courses in the previous year, but there is no requirement to pass courses to keep getting student loans. Perhaps the government wants to introduce some requirements even though some students are enrolled for tertiary education because they can't get a job. They`ll pull out of their course if they get one, though.

Some workers may well take on some papers internally while working. If they get a transfer, they have to pull out.

As for extramural students, many of whom are are not studying full time, the government appears to want to discourage them from studying unless they are an effective full time student.Some may have to enroll (and pay) in January for summer school just to be sure of a place, as if you enroll late or pay your fees late, you may be excluded.

These days, some students who gets offered a good job will pull out of uni. That's what you get when you have many students who are studying because they can't find work, and a government who can't provide the climate to create jobs for these students. These students aren't failures, they simply drop out. The rest graduate, go on the dole, and those that don't subsequently get work wonder when they can apply for jobs at the new "job creation" cycleway.


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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

If you had seven minutes left to live

You'd watch this.
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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

There’s probably going to be no atheist bus ads. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life

What a shame. The wheels have fallen off the atheist bus campaign, after it collected $20,000 to fund advertising to go on the side of buses. Apparently NZ Bus received complaints and have rejected the ads.

Naturally you'll get calls saying that the Human Rights Act has been breached as the lack of a religious belief, along with a religious belief is a prohibited ground of discrimination. NZ Bus would have to argue that they pulled the ads because of something other than a religious element. If they can do this, it is not unlawful discrimination.

The Atheist Bus Campaign is considering making a complaint to the Human Rights Commission against NZ Bus. To be fair, it should also make complaints against all the other bus companies who have turned down the ads. But it won't, because the NZ Bus potential case is based on rejection after prior approval, not just religious grounds. That can be seen as discrimination in itself.

Perhaps the Atheist Bus Campaign can put the ads on the Labour bus when it does its nationwide campaign against a GST increase.


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Monday, February 22, 2010

Will we be better off with an increase in GST or not, Mr Key?

Earlier this year John Key said he would cancel plans to raise GST if evidence shows people will be worse off.

Then he said that he wanted to make sure that low and middle income New Zealanders aren't worse off. Peter Dunne has echoed this in saying he'd want to make sure that low and middle income families are not hurt buy the GST rise - and that is a "key part of the policy." So does Dunne think it is ok if people are detrimentally affected, as long as they are not hurt?

Now Key is saying that it is his expectation that " the vast majority of (people) will be better off". This means that his expectation is that some either will be worse off - or will be neither better or worse off. If raising GST is fiscally neutral, why do it? The latest poll said that 63 per cent did not believe they would be better off from the resulting tax cuts. And given that half of all taxpayers are taxed about half of their income at the 12.5% rate, that's no surprise..For most people, it is other people who will be better off.

Labour thinks it can exercise some leverage on this . They are doing another tour. The wheels on the bus go round and round and we`ll see if people think Phil Goff is sincere -after all he did vote to increase GST from 10-12.5% - without adjustment to benefits.

If Key wants to make sure that low and middle income New Zealanders won't be worse off with a GST rise, he's not telling us how that will happen. Yet. And isn't it about time for Goff to state that Labour would repeal any GST increase, if indeed he is sincere in saying that an increase is A Bad Thing.

Or will the wheels on his bus stop going round and round - and fall off.


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Sunday, February 21, 2010

Government to change the student loans scheme

Currently any student who gets a student loan doesn't have to pay interest, nor do they have to pay it back unless they are earning more than $19,084 a year*. But the government wants to change the student loans scheme. The NZ union of students' associations called on the government to commit to providing interest -free student loans.

So it did.Tertiary Education Minister Steven Joyce said:
We're going to keep the student loan interest-free, but then we're going to look at other requirements around those student loans. The simple point is, if you don't pay interest on any loan – forget student loans for a second – then there is less incentive to pay it back than if you do pay interest.
So, what changes will be made? Here are some options:

One: Fewer people will be entitled to interest free student loans.Non achievers at school, for example. For those who fail first year papers, not only will you be unable to get a student allowance, you may not be allowed to resit the papers, even if you pay for the fees upfront.

Two: the earnings threshold where you have to pay student loans may be reduced.

Three: you may have to make repayments at a lower earnings threshold- which means more full time students will be making payments.

Currently you can make bulk repayments of at least $500 and get a 10% discount. This in effect means that if you pay off $1000 in one hit, you`ll shave off most of the amount for a year's student association membership for most universities.If you invest your student loan, you`ll make at least 10% on your investment. But if the earnings threshold is lowered, some students who earn the equivalent of a student allowance will have to make loan repayments. Perhaps the government will introduce repayments while studying. If so, some who get the student allowance will have to repay money back while studying - and if they don't get a job immediately after studying, there will be no reason while beneficiaries will not be forced to pay off their student loans through benefit income.

It is clear that the government wants more people to pay more of their student loan at a faster rate. To lower the existing rate of student loan debt, it must be paid off faster than the dollar value of future applications. I would not be surprised if the government restricts future applications and mandates quicker loan repayments at the same time - putting the squeeze on students and graduates.

Whats the bet also that National, should it win the next election, then lifts the fee maxima?
*note: if you are overseas for six months or longer, you get to pay interest on your loans.


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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The DomPost 's easiest political quiz yet.

While I'm not one to gloat, I found this Dom Post politics quiz pretty easy. It was their easiest one yet. I didn't even have to read all the options to select the correct answer in many cases.

10/10 in 18 seconds - faster than both David Farrar( who achieved his quickest time) and Graeme Edgeler (who was even quicker).


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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

$15 per hour minimum wage

Trevor Mallard is drafting a bill to lift the minimum wage to $15.00 per hour. Another thing Labour refused to do while in Government. Now if that bill comes out of the ballot at the same time as Roger Douglas' bill to reinstate youth rates, that`ll be interesting.


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Monday, February 15, 2010

Whanau Ora will be for whanau or a non-Maori family

The Māori Party has been granted $1 billion for Whanau Ora, a key policy as mentioned in National’s confidence and supply agreement with the Māori Party.
The Maori Party seeks significant outcomes in whanau ora, through eliminating poverty, advocating for social justice, and advancing Maori social, cultural, economic and community development in the best interests of the nation.
John Key has decided that the best interests of the nation in implementing this policy is to include non-Māori families as well, but implemented based on the Māori way of doing things . The former has infuriated the Māori Party, who wanted a Maori only policy. This was to be the big one.

Whanau Ora is really Maori-flavoured devolution. National has screwed the scrum. If a certain non-Māori family needs Whanau Ora more than a certain Māori family does, under this policy, which will be implemented from July, National thinks they should apply and get the benefits first. The Māori Party doesn’t, and it appears they'll have to lump it in one of their flagship policies.Tariana Turia doesn't want to force the "Maori viewpoint" on other families - and in any case these other families probably don't know what Turia will be referring to when she says "Maori viewpoint".


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Was this a dodgy name suppression order?

I’m no lawyer, but I think that the stated reasons from Judge Grant Fraser to grant permanent name suppression to the famous nameless sicko from Palmerston North, who downloaded about 30,000 pornographic images, are questionable.

Judge Fraser said he granted permanent name suppression to protect the man's family, his mental state, his wife's job and his ability to rehabilitate. I’m wondering if that was actually the case. Because the main stated reason appears to be because none of the offending images were of New Zealanders – or the judge was at least apparently told they weren’t.
Therefore publicity in my view is not required to flush out any potential offenders or to enable members of the community to keep themselves safe from you
But if these images were of New Zealanders, would that mean Fraser would have allowed his name to be published? If so, so much for his argument about the man's family, his mental state, his wife's job and his ability to rehabilitate. If not, so much for his argument to keep the community safe.

Crown prosecutor Ben Vanderkolk disagreed with Judge Fraser that name suppression was needed to protect the man’s family, saying the man’s children were well informed about the offending. He said this name suppression could be seen as protecting a person in a privileged position. Yet he refused to appeal the suppression order, citing among a few things, the fact that he had children, and that the court knew what the consequences of a conviction were.

[redacted after reading the judgement]

The man is undergoing therapy to treat his paraphilia. He didn’t just download 30,000 images – he transferred some to an external hard drive and distributed them through the Internet.

I’m wondering how well Vanderkolk knew the famous nameless man. And I’m wondering if this famous nameless man has seen his GP recently. I hear there has been a recent shortage in Palmerston North.

Like I said, I’m no lawyer, and have not read any court documents on this case, but would be keen to get any comment from lawyers or law students on the stated reasons for suppression as outlined above.


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Friday, February 12, 2010

The PM and GST

post has been updated

Radio NZ reports that Prime Min­is­ter John Key says he will can­cel plans to raise GST if evi­dence shows peo­ple will be worse off.He says that should reas­sure the Maori Party, who oppose an increase in GST.

Isn't that a bit like saying that he will overturn the smacking legislation if someone gets prosecuted, which will reassure parents that they will not be prosecuted for breaking the law?

Answer: a little bit, but its going to be very difficult to provide evidence that people will be worse off when GST is raised before GST is actually raised, isn't it?

This, particularly for those on low incomes families, as Key has not declared how much (or even if) Working for Families will rise to compensate for the rise in GST, or how he will compensate low income earners who are not eligible for WFF. [update: he has sort of]. For beneficiaries to be no worse off after a GST increase, benefits will have to go up at least 5 percent, with an increase in WFF on top of that.

Personally, I think some people will be worse off as a direct result of an increase in GST, but because they won't be able to directly attribute that to a GST increase, John Key will stick to his line.

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Roger Douglas (72) wants a minimum youth wage

Roger Douglas has drafted a bill [PDF] to restore youth rates to address the growing rate of youth unemployment. Because the removal of youth rates has led to a disproportionate increase in youth unemployment, as seen here. Douglas claims that 38.7% of Maori youth are unemployed.


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Thursday, February 11, 2010

Why give him name suppression?

Yesterday, police were on the lookout for Vanessa Pickering, who disappeared with a man whom we cannot name, but yesterday his name was all over the papers. The man appeared in court today and got interim name suppression. Pickering’s body was found today.

Many media reports have been written about this case since Pickering went missing on Monday. Most of the ones on Stuff are catalogued on a page which you can access by searching "Vanessa Pickering", but every single story has had their links changed to this story. All had one line summaries to the story and one even had the suppressed man's name - which begs the question, why change the links when the name is identifiable from the one or two line description?

But on this 3News story Christchurch man gets name suppression there’s a helpful list of related articles in the sidebar, which gives the man’s name.

I have nothing against interim name suppression in some cases, but this case isn’t one of them, particularly given his previous convictions.


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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Maori Party bill to entrench the Maori seats

So, Hone Harawira, on his second day back in parliament, tried to submit a bill in the ballot to entrench the Maori seats. The bill is in breach of the confidence and supply agreement between the Maori Party and National, as neither party is to pursue entrenchment or removal of the Maori seats.

Harawira claims the bill he submitted was "drafted up to three years ago".

I know for a fact that the final draft -at least for a similar bill - was some time after October 2008 - and possibly well into 2009, assuming Harawira's bill was drafted properly. That's because I had a copy of the bill, but the bill while entrenching the seats, did not entrench the Maori electoral option. You can read what I wrote about that at the time here and here.

After those two posts, which I was told that all Maori Party MPs read, they decided to amend the bill to entrench the Maori Electoral Option, which was the correct thing to do. But of course National won the election and the bill was shelved. Instead Labour put one in, but, under standing orders, the bill requires a 75% parliamentary majority to pass, which means both major parties have to support it to enact it.

Now, Harawira has said the bill had been entered by "mistake". Did anyone else in the Maori Party know he put it in the ballot? If not, why not?


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Getting people off benefits

Every week on average, some people have their benefit cut - not because they have found work or returned to study, not because they are leaving the country - but because they are going to prison. Guess how many..


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National is not going to raise GST- is it?

Before the election
National is not going to be raising GST. National wants to cut taxes, not raise taxes

After the election
The coded call for an increase to GST... was rejected by Mr English.

" We won't be doing that... it is not our policy," he said.
( Hattip Gobsmacked @ The standard

The Government is also carefully considering a modest increase in the rate of GST, to no more than 15 percent.

We are acutely aware of the effect that a rise in GST could have on lower income families.

update: Today
I said I wouldn't raise GST to cover deficits.

Problem was, that was not what he said.


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Saturday, February 06, 2010

Waitangi Day

Well today is Waitangi Day, our national day. And what a shame it is that so many people in this country have no knowledge of the Treaty of Waitangi, and many of those that do, misinform others. On TVNZ's Marae this morning there was a debate "Is the Treaty holding us back". Some of those who promote the role of the Treaty in this country have an indigenous argument and look to the future, those who think it is holding us back often look to the past, pointing to the fact that the Treaty is a historic document - and the " undemocratic nature" of the Maori seats in parliament of the failure of Maori focused units in prison. And those like Matthew Hooten try to have a bob each way.

Take Stephen Franks: "The Treaty has invented principles eg separate seats". At least that is what it sounded like. Well, the Treaty didn't invent the separate seats, nor are the seats a principle under it. Like the promotion of the Maori language, they were promoted through Acts of Parliament, even if they did reflect the intent of Treaty articles.

Sure the programme started at 8am and I was out on the town last night so I may have misheard Franks due to lack of sleep and coffee. But what I didn't mishear is that much of the discussion around the Treaty related to the Maori language, and land confiscations, none of which are are as direct result of the Treaty. Promoters emphasised indigeneity, substantive equality and equal citizenship. There is a clash of ideology - those who accept the concept of indigeneity and self-determination and and those who don't. There are different concepts of what equality is - and the role of the state.

One commentator said the Maori seats have led us into a "disgusting racial mess" and that land confiscations were done "because Maori rebelled against the Crown". - and it is the Treaty that is at fault.

It is not the Treaty that is holding us back. It is people who are holding the Treaty back. The Treaty can be a framework to move New Zealand on. If people understood the relevance, significance and potential of our founding constitutional document we'd be better informed. If people discussed the issues without dismissing relevant perspectives as irrelevant, we`d have a greater understanding of the Treaty and its relevance today. After 170 years, its time to have an open conversation, not an ideological debate.

Update The debate is now online.Franks, while not saying that dedicated seats are Treaty principles(see, it was too early to get up) said they are seen as justified on a constructed version of the Treaty, one that is a "millstone".He also claimed that Maori MPs changed our Electoral Act, changing the definition of "Maori" to one of self-identification, thus potentially bumping up the numbers on the Maori roll, purely because to not do so would have meant that there would be no Maori seats left if you had to be more Maori than Pakeha!

Anyway, here's a great video from Minuit.


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Give thanks and praise to the Lord

It's Robert Nesta Marley's birthday today......well it would be if he was as much alive as his music. Many people all over the world will be celebrating Bob Marley's birthday today.jammin

Marley was the king of reggae. He was born on February 6, 1945 at 2:30 am and died of cancer 36 years later, on May 11, 1981. His hits included Could You Be Loved, No Woman No Cry, Buffalo Soldier, and the anthemic Get Up Stand Up. Lesser known tracks include goodies such as Three Little Birds and the classic One Drop. Marley was Jamaica's greatest cultural icon. A month before he died he was awarded Jamaica's Order of Merit, the nations' third highest honor, in recognition of his outstanding contribution to the country's culture.

Down here there will be parties celebrating his birthday, as it is Waitangi Day, (or for the colonial, New Zealand Day). In Wellington, as happens every year, there will be an irie reggae party this afternoon, with much skanking and a bit of ganja, one assumes, going down.

For the rest of you, check out some online Marley music from the best reggae had to offer.

You can listen to some vocals
and take a listen to this midi track, to get you into the swing of things.


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Friday, February 05, 2010

Wai$angi celebration$

The media are being asked to cough up $500 each to cover Wai$angi Day commemorations- guess what the big story of Wai$angi will be, then..


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Thursday, February 04, 2010

Treasury can't forecast unemployment

In December Treasury said unemployment would peak at a 7%. John Key said that Treasury was being too pessimistic. Figures released shows that unemployment is now 7.3%. The last time it was that high National was in Government, too. But there is one major difference: the 10 years Labour spent getting people off the unemployment benefit ( and off ACC) to sickness and invalids benefits:
[h/t Lindsay Mitchell]

I don't think unemployment has peaked yet - and the Government is silent on what to do about rising unemployment except blaming it on population growth - but 25.5 percent of all job seekers have been out of work for more than 6 months.Anyone know how many jobs the job summit created?

Employment is going to be a key issue at the next election. The question voters will be asking is: Can Labour do any better? I think it can.


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Wednesday, February 03, 2010

I recon the student's virginity auction is a stunt

Like DPF I'm a bit dubious of the student who tried to offer her virginity to pay her fees through the site. The NZPA has this report.
Going, going, gone - a New Zealand teenager has auctioned off her virginity to a stranger for over $45,000 to fund her university tuition fees.The 19-year-old Northland student, who listed her virginity on the website under the name `Unigirl', said the leading bid was "way beyond what I dreamed".

I smell fish. There's no indication that she is even a virgin and she doesn't want to speak to media. In fact there's no evidence she is even a 19-year-old student - she could well be a 35-year-old once married man who will owe a lot of money in child support, for all I know. NZPA hasn't contacted this person and cannot verify her identity. In other words this story is not able to be verified other than what the journalist read on the website.

The site is a little different to Trademe. How do I know - well, I actually rang one of the directors of the site, Murray Arnenson, because I couldn't access the auction. As Arnenson told me, 20,000 other people were on the site at the time to check out this stunt [update: that figure was subsequently found to be false] and the site was taking ages to load. However I can confirm the successful bid amount is stated on the site as I saw it the other day.

But that amount was put there by the seller herself, because that is how the site works. Arnenson has no idea if it is a valid amount - or even if the money has been, or will be, paid. He does not know the person's identity, all he has is this person's e-mail address.

Arnenson claimed not to know about the auction until contacted by the Waitako Times. He considered pulling the auction but decided not to. In terms of bidding, it is a little different to TradeMe, as all bidding is done via e-mail and not directly on site. However once a price has been accepted, the seller can then post that price on the site, which she has done. She also wrote this
Thank you to the more than 30,000 people who viewed my ad and to the more than 1200 offers made
I doubt very much that 1200 offers were made; Arnenson has no idea how many offers were made. He wouldn't,given the e-mail nature of bidding. As a bidder you have no way of knowing what others have bid,how many have done so, or how many times.

The "student" concerned has told Arnenson, by e-mail - that "the deal was done", but has not confirmed that payment has been made. Furthermore, if payment is not forthcoming,the site does not take action.In other words a successful bidder can pull out ( excuse the pun) and there are no consequences for doing so. They can even relist after rejecting a successful bid.

Now, why can't the MSM find this out?

update One media outlet did contact the site owners, but did not appear to have asked many questions.


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Monday, February 01, 2010

Jones wants Māori Party gone: Māori Labour voters want Goff gone

Nearly half Māori voters who vote Labour do not believe Goff is the man to be leading the Labour Party. Just over a third (36%) say he is and just under a half (49%) say he isn't. However, of Labour voters not on the Māori roll the vote was pretty much 50/50 thanks to the expected overhangs..

It’s a pity the pollsters didn’t ask who is the person that should lead the Labour Party. The answer would have been interesting, given that Shane Jones, who wants to get rid of the Māori Party, is the least preferred PM after Key, Goff, Sharples, Turia and Harawira - and even Helen Clark and Winston Peters who aren't even in Parliament.

In fact Māori electorate voters would rather have Harawira as PM than Goff - but they’d also rather have Goff than Jones. Perhaps some Labour Maori voters would rather have Harawira as leader of the Labour Party.

Yep, Jones is at the bottom of the preferred PM pile, and is the only Labour MP in the list other than Goff. The poll of 1001, constituted 68% on the Māori roll and 32% from the General roll - and of those on the General roll, 51% would vote Labour. About a third of those on the Māori roll would vote Labour,despite a proportion of them preferring someone other than Goff as leader.

Why would Māori vote for a party if they want that party to have a change of leadership, and don’t believe that the leader is providing good leadership on Māori issues? Perhaps because a vote for the Maori Party is perceived to be wasted due to an expected overhang.

Phil Goff has said that he will work with a party “if we think that is in the interests of the country”. Personally, I don’t believe Labour considers the Māori Party is in the best interest of the country, purely because it is more friendly with National. That’s an incorrect position to take, because imagine the mess the country would be in if National was in full coalition with ACT, with Roger Douglas as a cabinet minister, and the Maori Party arguing with Labour from the sidelines?

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