BIG NEWS: 07/01/2010 - 08/01/2010

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Pacific Party is nearly officially history

In March the Family Party was deregistered by the electoral Commission. At the time I said that as three Christian parties - Family, Pacific and Christian Heritage - had departed from the political scene - two of their leaders are in prison, and the third is associated with a man who claims he is the physical manifestation of God, it was time to deregister the Pacific Party.

The Pacific Party was formed to attack Labour's "ungodly laws", but was the only political party registered while its leader was facing charges of ungodly lawlessness (which he lied about, and is consequently now in prison).

Four months after that post, the Pacific Party is finally going to be consigned to the dustbin.God is happy.

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Thursday, July 29, 2010

Chris Carter has been suspended from the Labour Party caucus

updated
Chris Carter has been suspended from the Labour Party caucus after admitting to sending an anonymous letter claiming there is a plot to overthrow leader Phil Goff.

There isn't.

You can read the letter here.

This letter was reported earlier today, before Carter's name became public. The letter also says Manurewa MP George Hawkins is being challenged by a union member for nomination, understood to be a EPMU member, and is threatening a by-election.

"There are no more chances. His future in the Labour Party is at an end," Goff said.

Goff said he recognised Mr Carter's handwriting on the envelope of the anonymous letter addressed, as I recall, to Vernon Small at the Press Gallery.( update: it was sent to other media outlets also). Carter may be expelled from the party as early as next weekend and nominations will be reopened for the Te Atatu electorate - of which Carter's partner, Peter Kaiser, is the electorate chair.

Of course, Carter can stay on as an independent, or resign and force a by-election. Either way, it's a sad day for the Labour caucus, but they'll bounce back.

Chris Carter, I guess, is wishing that Helen Clark was still the leader of the Labour Party. The rest of the caucus are supportive of the current leadership.

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The drink driving limit

While there are various opinions as to whether the drink driving limit should be changed, one of the justifications of not lowering the limit was more research is needed to be done. This 23 page report, released under the OIA, provides some of the research , particularly when comparing blood alcohol concentration ( BAC) at the 0.05 and the 0.08 levels.

Each year, drivers with a BAC between 0.05 and 0.08 are responsible for at least 7 deaths, 45 serious injuries and 102 minor injuries- at a social cost of $56.5m. Lowering the BAC to 0.05 is estimated to save between 15 and 33 lives, and prevent 320 to 386 injuries each year- at a savings of between $111m and $238m each year, and a savings of $28.5m on ACC claims.

Of note, if a person who has an accident with a BAC that is lower than 0.08, no recording of that count is required. Therefore, there are no stats on how many of the 1329 drivers suspected of having an alcohol impaired crash - but at lower than 0.08 - had a count between 0.05 and 0.08. This paper to a Cabinet committee recommended a lowering of the BAC levels for drink driving to make it equal to Australia, or to establish the level of crashes caused by drivers with a BAC between 0.05 and 0.08.

The Government has chosen the latter. It could have chosen to do both. Or neither. But if hard data to establish the levels of crashes caused by drivers between these two levels is the missing research that the Government wanted, then I wonder why it took so long to announce that they will be collecting this data starting from sometime next year?

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Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Family First approaches sex party for preference deal

Ha, this is so funny. Australia has a Sex Party, and the conservative Family First Party* approached it to do a preference deal in the federal election. The election will be run on a preferential voting system.

But despite the approach, the deal never happened. Or in the words of Family First:
We were talking with them (the Australian Sex Party) about the election ... and we came to an arrangement not to do an arrangement with them
That's a bit like a vegetarian going to a butchers shop and coming to an arrangement with the butcher not to buy meat.
*Nothing to do with these guys

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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The narrow door to education: getting entrance to university just got harder

One of the things that affects student achievement is how the government funds students and tertiary institutions.
The Government has a Tertiary Education Strategy which has a vision for a "world-leading education system that equips all New Zealanders with the knowledge, skills and values to be successful citizens in the 21st century."

Yet the vision does not meet the strategy; and the world leading education system is not financially equipped to meet the vision. The focus of the strategy is on those 25 and under that want to study full time to achieve a university degree. If you want to study part time, or extramurally while working, you don't fit, especially if you are over 25. The strategy notes that funding for tertiary institutions,will, in future, be linked to post-study employment and that a " wide range of students" should be successfully completing university degrees.

The strategy indicates that the Government wants to see more students enrolling, and finishing their degrees more quickly.But while most will have university entrance, many won't be able to enter university, despite the strategy concluding that " the tertiary education system needs to ensure it can meet the educational needs of an increasingly diverse population".

The Tertiary Education strategy says that student choice will be a driving factor in tertiary education provision. Some students want to be able to take some summer school papers - but if you want to do that at Massey University you can't, as enrolments were closed off last week with no warning to prospective students. This is not because the Government is not funding students - indeed, most summer school students won't be eligible for student allowances or student loans for living costs - it is because the Government has funded Massey for a certain number of effective full time students, and these students are now enrolled.

Last year Auckland University turned away 1100 students, and this year the number was almost 2000. Next year, both Victoria University and Massey University will join Auckland in introducing ranking systems for entrants under 20, meaning half of all enrolment places at New Zealand universities will be subject to competitive entry criteria. It is the single biggest change to our tertiary system since the introduction of student fees in 1990, and one that has happened so quickly that it has almost totally bypassed the public radar. Some fear it signals an end to open access education in New Zealand, and a move towards the kind of elitism New Zealanders have always liked to believe happened somewhere else.

That last paragraph was from an article from Matt Russell on capping enrolments in our universities for the Massey student mag Off Campus - but this new form of university capping does not happen at graduation, and is not just happening at Massey, it's happening nationwide.

The whole article is worth a read.

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Friday, July 23, 2010

No parliamentary support for abortion law change

Steve Chadwick has confirmed via e-mail to two separate people concerned about her bill to legalise abortion – including a worker in the medical profession whom she appears to know - that there is currently no parliamentary support for her bill.[ update: and it appears the Abortion Law Reform Association of New Zealand have recently found out]

I have seen some of the e-mails. Chadwick apparently wanted to start raising awareness and have abortion raised as both a human rights issue, and a women's health issue. But she hasn’t said why it she thinks it is a women’s health issue – and it is a topic politicians are loathe to touch.

In an earlier e-mail, Chadwick said:
I do not want abortion on demand, that was the Herald headline, not mine. I believe we will have succeeded when all children are wanted children because women are educated to make decisions on their fertility and love their children as they deserve to be love
The health worker responded:
The far better course of action is to love and respect both the woman and her child and to help the mother make decisions that respect the life of both. If we do not respect the life of babies before birth how can we be judgemental about those who ill treat children after birth? I believe humans should be loved and respected from conception until natural death. I fail to see how having an abortion helps women to "love their children as they deserve to be loved". Or are they literally loving them to death? And if death is considered a "loving" option for "unwanted" children before birth, isn't it inconsistent to condemn people who "choose" to kill their babies after birth?

You can safely respect my views because I am not in a position of power. You however are in a position of power so it is up to those of us who think your proposed bill will cause even more babies to die before birth, and cause physical and psychological damage to the mothers, to make our views known.
Chadwick then replied:
Thanks xxxx,
You are actually in a position of power called "people power"
There is no parliamentary support for my Bill
Regards
Steve
Chadwick was in contact with another member of the public as well, who she called a “ fabulous parent”.
XXXXX,
You are a fabulous parent and this is a reasoned and compassionate response
There appears to be a lack of parliamentary support for my bill at this stage
I am a midwife and would never pressure parents, nether did any Obstetrician I worked with in NZ for thirty years
Regards
Steve [Chadwick]
I think the politics behind this bill are ill-informed. Getting parliamentary support for a controversial bill is hard work. Sue Bradford found that out with her smacking legislation – but she had the support of her entire party and the Prime Minister right from the outset.

Chadwick doesn’t. Neither did Gerry Brownlee on mining conservation land. So it won't be put in the ballot anytime soon.
Hat tip Sempa Vista

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Thursday, July 22, 2010

Massey University students given 30 minutes warning to enrol for summer school

*** Breaking news***
At 4.25pm today, Massey University domestic students were given 30 minutes notice to enrol for summer semester papers. That is because at the end of the semester two enrolment period, the University has exceeded its TEC funding cap for the 2010 year, and because of continued enrolment pressures no further domestic student enrolments can be accepted.

(Actually that's not exactly correct, students weren't even advised, just Massey staff, by email).

Students already enroled in summer school offerings will still be allowed to study. But if not enough students have enroled for their papers, because they thought they had til November to enrol, some papers will be canned and Colleges may redirect students to a suitable alternative. That`ll be hard if the paper is a core paper needed to pass a degree.

New students intending to study at Massey next year must enrol by December 8. Current domestic students have until January 19, which is a lot earlier than the 28 February it used to be.

So, if you were hoping to enrol for summer school at Massey, you can't. And if are a student at school and intend to study at Massey next year, you`ll have to enrol before exams. If you lose your job and subsequently decide to go studying at Massey, you better hope you lose your job well before December 8.

UpdateThe DomPost has a front page story on this, now - and TVNZ has also picked this up.

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Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Jerks

A Christian school - Middleton Grange - Board of Trustees has sacked a school sports coach because he is gay - because of a belief that homosexuality is a sin. This is the sort of school I would never send my kids to - and had I been on the Board of Trustees for that school I would have resigned.

Rightly so, the school board has been told to attend a human rights awareness course, and has done so. They even had to give the man a payout. Ironically, the team was a girls team. The media reported that parents and teachers did not support the boards decision, but given that the fairly new principal and some parents are on the board, at least some parents supported the decision.

You gotta wonder what is wrong with Christian schools in Canterbury.They even have their own Christian schools network.It's time for them to start networking and discuss what Jesus would do in certain situations.

update Had to laugh when I read the Job description for the Board of Trustees which included "to be well acquainted with the National Education Guidelines and other applicable legislation, so that may ensure Middleton Grange compliance."

Other applicable legislation includes the Human Rights Act.

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Pulling a sickie

The Dominion Post reports:
The so-called "mental health day" could become extinct under law changes allowing bosses who suspect a worker of pulling sickies to demand they front up with proof after only one day.
I was under the impression that bosses could do that already, provided they pay for the proof, normally a medical certificate. In fact at one government department I worked for, I was told to go to the doctor, at my own expense to prove I was sick after two days. I refused, as I understood the law to mean that a medical certificate had to be paid for by the employer, unless I had been away for three working days or more; ( I since found it was actually three three calender days) as per section 68 of the Holidays Act 2003. In any case, my boss refused to pay for the visit - perhaps because he had no reasonable grounds to suspect my sickness wasn't genuine

The article goes on:
However, the change, announced by the Government at the National Party's annual conference in Auckland, would allow bosses to require staff to provide proof they are really sick from day one. The employer would have to pay the cost of a doctor's visit.
But the Holiday's Act also states that an employer can already do that. The difference is that the employer has to reasonably suspect the employee is pulling a sickie; National wants to take reasonableness out of it.

At the end of the day, it doesn't matter. If the doctor thinks the employee was sick, the medical certificate will be furnished and a couple of hours productivity is lost. If the employer is pulling a sickie, and the doctor agrees, the medical certificate won't be furnished, so the employers reasonable test is only relevant to the decision-making process in paying for the doctor's visit. National thinks that test should be removed, provided that the employer still pays for the doctors visit.

The big thing wrong with that is that employers are encouraged to be pricks who act without considering reasonableness. They should also be made to pay for their employee's transport costs to visit the doctor, and if that is not included in the legislation, why on earth does it need changing?

Hat tip ( for jogging my memory) No Right Turn

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Monday, July 19, 2010

Paul Holmes on well constructed writing

Paul Holmes comments on the National Standards and shows how he can write after looking at a blank screen.
Now I can feel fairly sure that in three or four hours this blank screen with be adorned with neat, well-spelled, well-punctuated words, phrases, sentences and nicely contained paragraphs. I hope there will be order.
He then goes on to say in the very next sentence:
They words might even say something with, I hope, minimal impediment of clumsy construction.
Clumsy construction, indeed.
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Friday, July 16, 2010

Minister wants education linked to jobs


Okay, the heading is misleading... it's not true at all. Tertiary Education minister Steven Joyce only wants the education that is on the back of state funding linked to jobs. And I agree that education should be linked to jobs.

What the Minister is reported to have said is that, ultimately, he would like to see funding based on how many of the previous year's students found work as a result of their qualification.Yet the minister, who completed his degree over a 22 year period, was one that didn't.

It's a shortsighted approach, particularly in the field of extramural education, which I have a bit to do with. A high proportion of extramural students already have jobs in the field they are studying , and finish their degree part time. Some are studying towards a qualification in a field they would like to enter, but already have jobs - and are not going to run away from that job until they can secure another one.

Its unlikely that funding for extramural institutions will be based on how many of the previous year's students found work in the field they are studying. I know of some students who have dropped out of their qualifications after securing jobs in their chosen field, without these qualifications.I know of others who have worked at Studylink because they were one of the 99 who missed out on each application for jobs in their field after graduating. I know of students who have studied midwifery that have then had kids. Does that count?

If university funding is based on completion and jobs, the model will fail - a third of students who finished university do not have a full time job six months later. Of the two thirds that do, it is not known what proportion is in the field of study. I wonder if this postgraduate student who did a thesis on the political blogosphere managed to get a job blogging six months after he finished.

Nah, he probably ended up at Vodafone or somewhere similar. Good on him, too.

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Thursday, July 15, 2010

Law to be changed as it is not used as intended

The Government is to change the claim of right defence so it cannot be used the way it was when three activists got off a criminal conviction when they damaged the Waihopai spybase.[Briefing paper [PDF]]. It intends to do this because the law, although applied correctly in the case, was not used as originally intended by Parliament.

So, to be consistent, lets change abortion laws to reflect the original intent of Parliament. And if it is clear that the abortion laws are not used as intended by Parliament, but the intent of Parliament has since changed, then the Government should put up the bill to change the law, as in the case of the claim of right defence.

Additionally, I note that Labour has publicised two bills recently, which have yet to be put into the parliamentary ballot. One is Clare Curran's Kiwi Jobs Bill, which has been widely publicised [and is here as a PDF], the other one, as Chris Trotter notes is one from former Womens Affairs and former associate Health Minister Steve Chadwick that seeks to amend our abortion laws. The bil has been drafted, and the Minister has discussed the bill with groups such as Family Planning,and the media.

But, like Phil Goff's comments on the bill, the bill itself, is nowhere to be seen.

Phil Goff said he hadn't given the matter much thought.Phil Goff was the spokesperson for Young Labour in 1977 when it actively opposed the current abortion law. Phil Goff got a reasonable amount of publicity on it back then.

Fast forward 21 years later for much thought.
As legislation relating to abortion is a conscience issue for Members of Parliament, it would be for individual parliamentarians to determine whether and in what form legislative amendments would be passed

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Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Uni magazine’s inaccuracies confirmed by the Minister

Yesterday morning,, I rang up minister Steven Joyce’s office regarding yesterday’s inaccurate story in Salient regarding entitlement to student assistance, before I wrote this blog post. They weren`t aware of the story but said they’d get back to me. They didn’t but they did get back to NZPA confirming inaccuracies in the article, after the NZPA parroted a story picked up by the NZ Herald.

Joyce’s office made these points

* Generally, most conjoint degrees take less than 5 EFTS (effective full time student) to complete. An additional year for honours would take the student to 6 EFTS. However, if a masters study took them over the 7 EFTS limit, they would be given an additional one EFTS to finish their degree;
* Most students who complete a medical degree at Otago University will do 1 EFTS Health Sciences First year and then 5 EFTS for the remainder of the medical degree -- a total of 6 EFTS.
 A student who completes their degree and honours degree before going over their 7 EFTS limit will have one additional year of entitlement for masters study that takes them over the 7 EFTS limit.

The past few Salient editors have used a few EFTS - they have honours degrees. Obviously the current one doesn’t know much about EFTS.

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Monday, July 12, 2010

Students are likely to have to fund their own Masters study?

Victoria University's Salient has popped up a story about eligibility to the student loans scheme for post graduate students.
Some future doctors and those seeking a higher education will be forced to fund some of their own studies after changes made to the Student Loan Scheme earlier this year.

In an exclusive statement to Salient, Tertiary Education Minister Steven Joyce admitted that the changes made to the Loan Scheme in Budget 2010 will mean that some students will not have access to student loans to cover their final years of study.
This is nothing new. There are limits on how long students can get a student loan and for the average student with a three year degree (and honours) this policy won't affect them. But the Salient article says the opposite.
The loan scheme restructure means students who complete a double degree and honours will likely need to fund any Masters study out of their own pocket, but may then be able to access funding for Doctorate study.
That is simply incorrect.

Most students will be unlikely to have to fund their own masters even if they did two degrees - anyway, most students would do a double major,which takes around the same time as a single major.

Most degrees take fewer than 5 EFTS (effective full time student) to complete. A student who studies full time for about 52 weeks a year is a 0.8 EFTS. An undergraduate can get the student loan for 7 EFTS, with a further 1 EFTS allowed for postgraduate study and 3 EFTS for doctoral study if these EFTS are unused.That's more than eight years of study. The same rules apply for the student allowance. So the average full time student studying to honours level will only run out of EFTS if he or she fails and then resits a good deal of papers - in a second degree.

Where the policy could affect students is post graduate study after degrees that take around seven years - such as medical studies. But it is blatantly incorrect to state that students who complete a double degree and honours will likely need to fund Masters out of their own pockets - with the implication that most students who have done honours will have to fork out for Masters.

You only have to look at the Cabinet papers to find that out. Obviously Salient didn't bother to do that.

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Social networking

Here’s a trailer on an upcoming movie on social networking and Facebook

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Friday, July 09, 2010

Labour's polling is the lowest this year

The Recent Roy Morgan Poll has Labour on 29%, the lowest this year. Taking into account the margin of error, Labour's polling is around the same mark as its gap with National.

Labour lap-blog The Standard thought the last poll made grim reading for the left. This one is worse. The scary thing is that NZ First is the fourth most popular party, polling more than Act, Progressives and United Future combined. Now if Helen Clark was the NZ First leader, they could even make a fist of it at the election next year.But then the NZ Fist jokes will start up again, and start to sound a bit queer.

Labour needs to start being an opposition.

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Tuesday, July 06, 2010

How not to report in plain English

The Plain English awards are on at the moment. Each year, organisations and members of the public are invited to submit documents and websites that they think are outstanding examples of plain English — or of gobbledygook.

Entries closed yesterday. It’s a shame really, as I could have entered the Ministry of Education’s website which advises how to report to school students in plain language on the National Standards.
2. Plain language reporting
It’s a good idea to have any explanatory sheets read by a parent to check they are clear and easy to understand. any explanatory sheets read by a parent to check they are clear and easy to understand.
And this - after the site was amended. It’s not the only error on the page, either. It’s probably a good idea for the Ministry of Education to have its websites read by someone to check for repetition.

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Sunday, July 04, 2010

National standards and school principals

Well, I`m back blogging and I hope to be doing a post on National Standards this week. Yet I couldn't help noticing that Education Minister Anne Tolley thinks that teachers are public servants, and that parents want National Standards. As a parent and a trustee of a school board, I have an opinion on this.

Firstly, Tolley is incorrect. Teachers are not public servants - they are employed by Boards of Trustees. While it is helpful for parents to have reports that clearly show how their kids are doing in reading , writing and maths, in terms of National Standards, what if they don't have a clue of what that national standard is? And what if they want to be told on these reports how their kids are getting on in other areas of the curriculum, such as art? Will that also be reported on?

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