BIG NEWS: 04/01/2010 - 05/01/2010

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Extraordinary urgency

As I write the House has almost gone through the speeches for the Excise and Excise-Equivalent Duties Tables (Tobacco Products) Amendment Bill, which will be passed under extraordinary urgency tonight to stop people rushing off and buying smokes in the morning after reading the newspapers. As David Farrar notes, this type of urgency is so rare, it needs the permission of the Speaker under Standing Order 56(3) . He must be convinced “that the business to be taken justifies it”.

Tax on cigarettes will go up 10 percent at midnight tonight with a further 10% increase next January and a third increase of 10% in January 2012. All but four Act MP support this bill. Well done to Tariana Turia for putting the bill before the House and to Hone Harawira for pushing the issue. Well done to Tau Henare for giving up smoking. And I thought Hekia Parata gave a good speech. You can see that here.

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Monday, April 26, 2010

Ch-ch-ch-changes

Interesting week so far this week. I was elected to the Board of Trustees of the local school that the kids are at. I also started a new job today.

Anyway, I may continue blogging, but certainly not during the day. However I may do some time delay posts, meaning you may get some posts pop up during the day, but written the night before.

Expect to see a drop in the frequency of posts - or I may even just stop.

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Sunday, April 25, 2010

What’s so scary about self determination for indigenous peoples?

Perhaps there is a good reason for a declaration on indigenous rights if indigenous peoples are not getting human rights as per other similar human rights instruments. Perhaps an indigenous emphasis is needed.

The International Bill of Rights comprises of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) as well as civil and political rights (freedom and democracy) and economic, social and cultural rights (social justice).

New Zealand ratified both the international Covenant on Civil and Political Rights( ICCPR) and the international Covenant on Economic, Cultural and Social Rights. With the UDHR, ratifed in 1948, together these three documents are known as the International Bill of Rights.

Article 1 of both covenants state:
All peoples have the right of self-determination. By virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development.
Now I didn’t hear any complaints when we ratified these covenants. But people are complaining about this, describing it as separatism.
Indigenous peoples have the right to self-determination. By virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development.
The above is from article 3 of the UN Declaration of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). It’s a declaration, not a covenant, but because it has that nasty word “indigenous” in it, rednecks like Michael Laws assume it will further a separatist agenda for Māori because they can “freely determine their political status”. This is despite the article being pretty much word for word as the International Bill of Rights which people had no initial problem with - which also states that states shall promote the realisation of the right of self-determination, and shall respect that right.. subject to its jurisdiction.

Laws in mentioning the ICCPR, must have conveniently glossed over Article 26, which notes that “All persons are equal before the law”. The ACT party should also like this. It’s a pity they don’t mention this clause much - it's party policy. It would also be nice if Laws and Rodney Hide acknowledged Article 46 of UNDRIP, which states that nothing in the declaration may be interpreted as authorizing or encouraging any action which would dismember or impair the political unity of sovereign and independent States.

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Saturday, April 24, 2010

Former foetus fights for foetuses against former foetus killer

Pro life activist and former foetus Andy Moore has recently come out the other end of a scrap with the Abortion Law Reform Association of New Zealand. It is headed by Margaret Sparrow, herself a former foetus killer. Moore obtained the domain www.alranz.org.nz. Sparrow's site is www.alranz.org and so she objected to Moore's site, through her lawyer. In addition she purchased similar domain names, and spent more than $2000 to have an independent expert hired by the Domain Name Commission to decide on the case.This commission is appointed by Internet NZ to manage and administer the .nz domain space on its behalf.

Moore walked away from the dispute, and although he will no longer have the site due to the decision of the Domain Name Commission, he now has ExposingALRANZ.org.nz.

Which, as you can see here has exactly the same content as the offending site, claiming to expose the ALRANZ, which, I guess, was the whole point of the initial exercise.But if you click through the link on Moore's site that says "ALRANZ supports late-term abortions for disabled babies" you get this page which is an Abortion Law Reform Association of New Zealand Newsletter that mentions "foetal abnormalities".

update And a little bird told me (no it wasn't a sparrow, neither was it Moore) that Sparrow is using the letters of the editor columns to attack pro-lifers, claiming that prolifers have abused her. She claimed that Andy Moore repeated comments of another blogger that "Margaret Sparrow should be hung, drawn, and quartered for what she has done.” Although that statement did appear on Moore's blog, it was a comment by someone - probably not a blogger- who had an abortion, and who added the comment herself.

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Where's my free ticket to Phoenix games?

Terry Serepisos has paid quite a bit of money into the Phoenix soccer team, and if he pays all his debts the soccer team may be in trouble. Whoop-de-do. Serepisios has paid $5m into the Phoenix but the Wellington City Council is owed $2m in rates and ground rents.

If Serepisos can't pay his rates and ground rents because he's putting too much money into the Phoenix, that means someone else is actually sponsoring the Phoenix and one of them is me, a rate payer.

So where's my tickets to Phoenix games, Serepisos? The least you can do is give me, as a sponsoring ratepayer, a family pass to home games, rather than hiring someone and paying them $200,000 with a free Merc off the back of a TV show.

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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

All UN Nations could support UN Declaration

A day after we agreed to the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the US - the only UN country yet to agree in principle to the declaration - has come out and said it is "pleased to announce that the United States has decided to review our position".

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UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

New Zealand finally formally agreed to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) early yesterday, more than a year after indicating it may do so, and a year after Australia voiced its support .

Last month, Canada indicated it would support the declaration, meaning the US will soon be the only UN member not to support it.(Update well, maybe not). And from the outset, may I remind everyone that that this declaration was not “signed” - it is not a treaty, it is not legislation, in fact it is not even a convention like the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child - and it is not legally binding. Any influence it has on law is open to interpretation by states - meaning it could have influence on legal matters, but it doesn't have to.

This support should have happened ages ago, but unfortunately Labour refused to support it based on Article 26, which gives indigenous peoples the right to lands, territories and resources which they have traditionally owned, occupied or otherwise used or acquired and that states should give legal recognition and protection to these lands, territories and resources.

The Government has that covered by stating that approval of the declaration is conditional on a proviso attached saying that progressing Māori rights occurs within New Zealand’s “current legal and constitutional frameworks”. Canada, no doubt, will do something similar. Article 27 of the Declaration urges governments to establish a ‘fair, independent, impartial, open and transparent process... to recognize and adjudicate the rights of indigenous peoples pertaining to their lands, territories and resources, including those which were traditionally owned or otherwise occupied or used’. Arguably, National’s current process with regard to the Foreshore and Seabed is doing this.

But that hasn’t stopped ACT saying that the declaration is divisive, is about “separating New Zealand into two”, and about providing special rights to Māori, but ACT has never shown any willingness to understand indigeneity. Clearly Article 46 of the declaration notes that nothing in the declaration may be interpreted as authorizing or encouraging any action which would dismember or impair, totally or in part, the territorial integrity or political unity of sovereign and independent States.

Phil Goff could see no point in "signing up" to the declaration, claiming that the Government did not intend to fulfil it after John Key said that the agreement has no practical effect. If that is the rationale behind support or opposition, perhaps Goff should ask himself why he supports our position on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights [PDF]. Perhaps he could ask himself why he supported the anti-smacking legislation, which, unlike a declaration, is legally binding.

Like other UN declarations and conventions agreed to by New Zealand (including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by NZ in 1948), rights recognised in UNDRIP have been supported in New Zealand for years, and there's no harm in officially reminding the UN community of it.

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Monday, April 19, 2010

Mayor Anderton

So, Jim Anderton wants to morph himself from mere Anderton to Mayor Anderton in Christchurch. Maybe.

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Sunday, April 18, 2010

Six years to complete a degree or student loans stop

Post has been updated - see comment below
Steven Joyce wants students to finish their degrees quicker. If they don’t finish them in six or seven years, well, they can fund the degree themselves as they won’t be able to get a student loan. And fair enough too, for full time students. He appears to be blaming students for dragging the chain because student loans are interest free.

It’s unclear whether “student loan” means for course costs ( I assume so) as well as living costs, and if so, that has the potential to cause problems, particularly for extramural students who work while studying – and may, for example, do a few papers a year and finish the last year off full time. If a student takes two or three papers a year, completing 16 papers in say six years, and decides to do the last eight papers as a full time student, will they be able to get a student loan if the limit is six years; will they be able to get a student loan for course costs in the last year if they complete the final eight papers over two years? And that's for a three year degree. Some degrees - for example Social Work - are four year degrees.Medical degrees are abut six years in length.

What happens if a student - particularly an extramural student - wants to have a break in studying for a year because their job is going well or they want to have a year off to concentrate on, say, raising a newborn child? Additionally, each extramural student costs less money and time than internal students, as they don’t go to lecturers or tutorials, and use campus facilities a lot less, yet their fees are also set to increase.

It took me six years to do my degree (including honours) but that was only because I did the last three years full time, passed all my papers, worked part time and in the last year survived on about five hour's sleep a night, on average. Neither did I have any years in between where I took no papers at all. Hardly any extramural students (of which I was one) study full time for three years running. Sure, students who work full time may not take up loans for living costs, but they have to pay for course costs and books (and in my case airfares, transport and accommodation costs to contact and block courses) somehow.

If I was a lifetime student, I’d just do another degree and do it within six years. Then do another one. If I studied at my current rate, I'd have three honours degrees in the time that Steven Joyce took to do his degree in zoology, a degree he has said he has never used. And that's with a three year gap in between.

UPDATE Just had a chat to the Minister's office - apparently the proposal is for effective full time students (EFTS). An EFTS is eligible for a student allowance, and does at least six papers a year. Meaning that this part of the policy will not affect extramural students who gradually complete their degrees, unless they are an EFTS for at least six years, and the policy won't affect post graduate study at all. Good.

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Friday, April 16, 2010

Wellington City Council to close down suburban libraries?

The Wellington City Council has a draft community facilities policy [PDF].The Council’s website summary mentions ‘strategic priorities'. These strategic priorities have the potential for the Wadestown, Brooklyn, Island Bay, Ngaio, and Khandallah libraries to close. Public meetings are being held regarding this draft policy next week at the Johnsonville, Central and Kilbirnie libraries - ironically, libraries that are going to be upgraded.

"Neighbourhood centres" that have a population of fewer than 6,000 people may not have a library service, let alone a library. Wadestown has fewer than 6000 people and has a library. But the draft plan ( in table 2 page 7) is silent about any library services for neighbourhood centres.

Other areas - called "district centres" may lose their library as well, and be downgraded to having "library services" within community spaces", such as recreation centres and community halls. This could mean that the Khandallah library could close and be reduced to a "library service" in a space like the Khandallah Town Hall or a local church. Other areas will not even have a "library service" if they are within 3 kilometres of another town that has a library service tucked away in a community hall - so the Ngaio library may close and be without a library service as it is near to the hall used for the library service in Khandallah.

Our kids often visit the local library with their school class. So much for all the kids who go to school in places like Khandallah and Island Bay, they may miss out.

Now of course the Draft Annual Plan doesn't mention closing libraries - if it did, too many people will be sending submissions to the council opposing the policy. "Strategic priorites" sounds so much nicer. Submissions to this plan close close 10 May.

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Raising the driving age

Cabinet has approved the increase of the driving age to 16. No doubt a government bill will be forthcoming. I wonder how different it will be to the Land Transport ( Driver Licensing) Amendment Bill [PDF], another government bill that that aims to raise the driving age to 16 and extend the learner licensing period to 12 months. This bill is currently before the select committee and the report is due on 30 June.

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A Cardinal Sin

Many psychologists, many psychiatrists have demonstrated that there is no relationship between celibacy and pedophilia but many others have demonstrated, I was told recently, that there is a relationship between homosexuality and pedophilia. It is true. That is the problem.
This, unbelievably, is the recent declaration of Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican’s Secretary of State — in other words, the Catholic church’s top diplomat with regards to the sex abuse scandals in the Catholic Church. Yet less diplomatic, more self-serving, less righteous words have rarely been spoken.

This is the same man who, in 2002, said new internal church norms he completed to help bishops deal with abusers would not compel them to hand over molesters to the police.

I wonder what he "was told recently" about heterosexual pedophiles - by far the majority of priestly pedophilia.
hat tip Daily Kos

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On equality: A Good Idea

Why do Americans have higher rates of teenage pregnancy than the French? What makes the Swedish thinner than the Greeks? The answer: inequality.
The fill screen version of these slides can be accessed by clicking "view on slideshare" above, or by clicking here.

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Thursday, April 15, 2010

Voting for MPs who speak for Māori

The Māori Party does not speak for all Māori any more than any other political party -apart from ACT, perhaps - speaks for non-Māori. Much is made of their polling of around 3% - yet those in the Māori electorate who support the Māori Party acknowledge that the electorate vote is the vote that counts in terms of getting Māori Party MPs in the House.

Unlike Lindsay Mitchell, I don’t consider that the Māori Party is pushing a separatist line, and should its vote drop, that NZ First will pick up the support. There may well be just as much extra support for the Greens as NZ First. Even if the Māori Party support does drop to 1% and most of the electorate vote holds, all it would mean that support of the Māori Party, in terms of getting seats in the house, holds. List votes will go to other parties, not necessarily to NZ First. In fact NZ First would probably get no more than 1000 extra votes per Māori electorate. In some Māori electorates, more voted Green than NZ First in the past three elections. The Māori Party normally gets at least three times as many votes as NZ First does in the Māori electorates, so more lists votes will go to other parties – probably Labour.

The Māori Party does speak for Māori. However that does not preclude the notion that its policies are for all New Zealanders – including Whanau Ora. Furthermore, the Greens (perhaps National even, without ACT influence) are more likely to speak for Maori than NZ First. It appears that most have forgotten that NZ First was the party that put forward a bill to delete the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi from all legislation - including the Treaty of Waitangi Act.

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Saturday, April 10, 2010

Will Whanau Ora lead to job losses?

John Armstrong comments:
The problem is that nursemaiding dysfunctional families is prohibitively expensive. How much money Turia, wearing the new title of Whanau Ora Minister, has actually extracted from the Finance Minister will not be known until closer to the Budget.

The other question is how much of that will be swallowed up in the administration of what will be a complex scheme which, in parts of the country lacking iwi-based social service organisations, could see a new tier of frontline welfare workers. That begs the question of what happens to the ones already supposedly doing the job.

English has brushed that no small matter aside, saying the fate of existing staff in social service agencies is tied up with the ongoing restructuring of the state sector.
So does that mean that the fight for Whanau Ora contracts is part of this restructuring, and those that are already doing the job will no longer do so? I’ve read the Report of the Taskforce on Whanau-centred Initiatives, 71-page vision statement, and I’ve read some of it before, in Mason Durie’s books. While the report is helpful to a Māori audience, this report was for the Government and comments like “ Whanau Ora is anything we want it to be, anything we can dream it to be, so that whanau are empowered to be the best they can be”, and “Kia whai taangata e mohio ana ki nga taha Māori me te taha Kawana”, and Whanau Ora is going to take us there and it has been since the beginning of time” are too idealistic - even trite. Where’s the analysis?

While it could be true that results of Whanau Ora may well not be worse than current outcomes, that does not necessarily mean it will be any better either. It appears we won’t know for a long time yet, way after the next election.

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Friday, April 09, 2010

Whanau Ora

So, the Whanau Ora report is out [PDF], after being in the hands of the government since February. The Government has said that many of the recommendations in the report will be disregarded - then appointed three members of the Whanau Ora Task Force that wrote the report that has these disregarded recommendations onto the governance board of the trust that is to run Whanau Ora. They`ll report to the Whanau Ora minister, Tariana Turia.

There is nothing in the report that states how much Whanau Ora will cost, other than stating that it will be funded by existing budgets of the ministries of Maori Development, Social Development and Health - whose three chief executives are also on the six member board. There is nothing in the report - or anywhere else - to indicate who will administer contracted services,how those administering the services apply to do so, what the expected outcomes will be, or what accountability mechanisms will be in place to ensure that government money is wisely and efficiently reallocated.

Bill English says that Whanau Ora is based on the idea that, with a little help, people can sort out their own lives. In reality it appears to be based on private providers in a race to get some contracts to tell others how to sort out their lives. Will the same amount of money be spread around more people?

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Thursday, April 08, 2010

Everyone knows there is a spybase in Waihopai, now

Some time ago, musician Jeff Simmond wrote a song and produced a video recorded outside the Waihopai spybase which you can see here. One line is “ I bet you didn’t know there is a spybase in Waihopai.

Everyone who has had any recent exposure to the media knows there is a spybase in Waihopai, now.

The Waihopai 3 were acquitted in court of acting against the law in damaging the Waihopai spybase, as they had a “claim of right”. Crown Law has decided against an appeal, but released a statement [PDF] indicating that civil proceedings to cover the estimated $1.1m damages is not being ruled out. That`ll be a waste of taxpayers money according to Green MP Keith Locke.

Fr Peter Murnane, a pensioner, said on Morning Report today that any attempt to recover damages is merely paying for the exposure of torture and will be defended. And defending their actions - with or without civil proceedings - is part of the Waihopai 3’s protest in creating further awareness of the spybase.

The Waihopai 3 have little money –certainly not $1.1m. According to Adrian Leason, Murnane has some loose change, Leason has $400 in his bank account, and Sam Land keeps his money under his mattress and it's only a matter of hundreds. They’ve already forked out a few hundred for the farmers fence they damaged in getting to the spybase, presumably because damage to the fence was not seen to prevent war in Iraq.

Any civil proceedings will merely send a message that the powerful Crown, in certain circumstances, aims to treat certain people that have been found innocent in a court of law as if they had been found guilty in a court of law. Even if it is not successful in recovering damages.

If Crown Law does not like the claim of right defence, there is a simple solution: remove it from our statute books in the same way as was done for the partial defence of provocation.

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Saturday, April 03, 2010

Name suppression: what a stupid decision

Margo McAuley may well have been a popular real estate agent who committed suicide, but her inquest has been reported by the Dominion Post – I believe, purely because her husband is now married to a celebrity that we are not allowed to name.

Her name has been suppressed. I’ve met this celebrity and she’s a good sort. She`ll be less than impressed that her name is suppressed. There was absolutely no reason why the court should suppress her name . If it is all over the Internet, why suppress the name. Just because she is well- known? Stupid.

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Friday, April 02, 2010

Performance poetry from Kate Tempest

This stuff is just brilliant. Watch it.

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Electoral Legislation Select Committee

National MP Amy Adams is the first first-term MP in the current Parliament to chair a select committee. She's the newly appointed chair of the new Electoral Legislation Select Committee, which has MPs from all political parties.It has been set up to look at the bill that will empower the 2011 referendum on the Mixed Member Proportional Representation (MMP) voting system, as well as to implement electoral finance reforms. Other members are Jim Anderton, John Boscawen, Lianne Dalziel, Peter Dunne, Pete Hodgson., Darren Hughes, Rahui Katene, Hekia Parata, Paul Quinn, Chris Tremain, and Metiria Turia.

I realise most of you are already really bored with this post so I`ll stop now.

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Thursday, April 01, 2010

Big News is back

Well that didn't last long. Actually, given that today is 1 April I have decided that I will continue blogging. If you keep reading, I'll keep blogging, okay?
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Knocking it on the head. Goodbye...

I'm going to finish up blogging. Ive been doing it for years, but I started a new job yesterday that pretty much prevents me from blogging - at least means that there are some things I should not be blogging on - particularly in work time, like I did yesterday.

So I thought I'd knock it off. Goodbye - It's nice to have known you. It's nice to have broken a few stories, nice to have made some friends through the blog. I`ll miss it - but better to take this line than to get me in trouble with the boss.

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