BIG NEWS: 03/01/2011 - 04/01/2011

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Is Darren Hughes still getting paid – and can the Speaker do something about it?

When a list MP leaves parliament prior to an election, the next MP on the party list usually takes his or her place. But there is a process to follow.

As most know, Labour list MP Darren Hughes has left parliament, and in order for Judith Tizard, the next on the list, to take his place in Parliament, the Electoral Commission has to supply the vacancy. Prior to that, the Governor General has to notify the Electoral Commission of the vacancy. The Governor General is advised of the vacancy by the Speaker. The Speaker is usually advised in writing by the party or member that has the vacant seat, and publishes that vacancy in the Gazette.

In the case of Darren Hughes, apparently, none of this has happened yet*.

From what I can gather, nobody has written to the Speaker telling him of the vacancy. Hughes may be gone, but if his seat has not been declared vacant,no one else can take it. If Hughes has not resigned, he may still getting paid by parliamentary services notwithstanding this statement indicating a decision to resign. What’s more, there is no time limit in the Electoral Act to determine a replacement for a list MP.

However, if the Speaker is satisfied that the seat of an elected member has become vacant, that Speaker must, without delay, publish a notice of the vacancy and its cause in the Gazette.

Could it be that the Speaker does not have to have a letter advising him of the vacancy. What is stopping Lockwood Smith publishing a notice in the Gazette accordingly if he is satisfied that Hughes' seat has become vacant, sans letter of resignation. Or does this satisfaction not occur until a letter is produced.Perhaps that's it - [update Yep, and it's stated in Section 55 of the Electoral Act. Missed that.Thanks Graeme Edgeler for that comment below]

So while the media wants to imply that Tizard is giving Labour the runaround by not making her mind up, she has every right not to reveal whether she wants the seat if the Speaker hasn’t written to the Governor General to advise of a vacancy.

If nothing changes, and Hughes hasn't formally resigned,he could get paid, and could even sit in his parliamentary seat until the election.

Of course that will cause another media firestorm. It would also displease Labour as it will have one less MP on the taxpayer tit to campaign in the election, which is why Labour wants Louisa Wall, a 2011 candidate, to take Hughes' place. However Wall's selection will be a better deal for the taxpayer. Tizard, if she takes a list place, would cost the country more as she would get three month’s salary after being booted out at the election. Louisa Wall, should she be selected may well be an MP after the election.

Either way someone who is not wanted or is of no use to Labour is likely to be paid. And you’re paying.

Update Apparently he is resigning next week. I guess this will be be backdated to the date that Goff accepted the resignation.
* if Hughes has (since) resigned, this post is purely academic

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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Goff is Labour’s leader, and he should lead

My last post touched on Labour leader Phil Goff’s leadership, and, unlike many others, called for Goff to lead, not to be replaced by someone who doesn’t want the job – i.e. everyone else in Labour’s caucus.

As leader of the Opposition, Goff is supposed to lead a party that is intent on providing an alternative government so that when there is an election the people can decide that this alternative bunch is worth a crack at government again.

Just as the focus on the Darren Hughes affair shifted to Goff’s leadership, so the discussion is now shifting to the effectiveness of the party he is supposed to be leading. And much of this discussion is generated by Labour activists who can only be described as really pissed off. One activist asks “any suggestions on who to vote for in the upcoming election?”, implying a party other than Labour. The rest are asking for a leader other than Goff. They won't get that before the election.

Goff is now the leader, and he should lead. If Goff won’t lead - and he won’t be challenged - Labour deserve to go down the gurgler at the next election, in part because they didn’t have the balls to roll Goff earlier in the electoral cycle. I thought he should have been rolled way back in 2009 and called it.

Goff actually said the Hughes affair is bound to be bad for the party and then today said it has strengthened his leadership. Well, if it has strengthened his leadership, it needs to be a lot stronger, so, under Goff’s reasoning, let’s have another sex scandal.
The Darren Hughes debacle has actually strengthened Goff’s hold on the leadership, as the desire for anyone else to be leader has greatly diminished . Consequently, that’s bound to be bad for the party - because Goff is still leader of a caucus whose members are, in the main, talented bobble heads ( at least in front of the cameras), none of whom want to lead, including some who'd rather not be led by Goff.

Labour needs to get back to being an opposition, to hold the government to account and to provide an alternative to National. Otherwise disaffected Labour activists may end up voting Green.

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Sunday, March 27, 2011

What a shambles

Just wondering, can we have a Labour leader now? Forget David Cunliffe. Grant Robertson, although a fairly recent arrival in Parliament, would do a better job (and so what if he is gay) – but he doesn’t want the job. No one wants it. Phil Goff has it and he should get on and do it, because the party deserves it and needs it.

Phil Goff’s handling of the Darren Hughes allegations was terrible. If he is inept at this, how is he going to be able to run a country?

Goff has refused to return calls from party president Andrew Little on the Hughes allegations. He has refused to truthfully reveal how long he had known about the Hughes allegations. We now know he knew a day 0r two after the complaint was made to the police , i.e within a few days of the alleged incident. He has refused to accept the resignation of Darren Hughes,(twice), only to accept it, under pressure, days after the news broke. You’d at least think that he’d talk to his president to manage how this news was to be broken, or before accepting a resignation of a top MP before a police investigation is completed.

But he did neither. The immediate appointment of Goff’s old school mate David Shearer to Hughes’ education portfolio hasn’t pleased everyone. Nobody in Labour wants Judith Tizard to replace Hughes on the list, although Goff has asked Tizard whether she will take up the vacant list spot.

But Goff hasn’t spoken to Little about that, either. Goff doesn’t want Tizard to take up the list place, but feels he has to give her first dibs, and told reporters she should be the next MP. Meanwhile LIttle was telling journalists that Louisa Wall - who is several list places lower than Tizard - should be the next MP. One political journalist asked me, “Do they even talk?”.

Tizard said she`ll let Goff know in about a week whether she wants to be an MP again and get $162,020 for a few month’s work - perhaps she`ll talk to the New York branch of the party first. National MP’s, however, would love to see Tizard back.

Goff is a hopeless leader because he doesn’t generate hope, and he doesn’t have the support of his caucus. Labour MPs, rather than following him, are merely falling in behind him, unsure whether to backstab him, because no one wants to lead the Labour Party in its current state until they feel it is necessary to do so. Goff is no pied piper. There’s no way Labour can effectively run the country under Goff, when it can’t even be an effective opposition or explain its own policies.

Take employment for example. Labour’s employment strategy is that it is telling people that it has a plan for jobs, and that National doesn't. That’s it. No mention at all as to what that plan actually is.

We deserve better than that. If we don't have an effective opposition, who is going to provide checks on democracy - the fourth estate?

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Saturday, March 26, 2011

Another Labour education spokesperson

David Shearer is Labour’s fourth education spokesperson this Parliamentary term, after being parachuted into Parliament by Phil Goff to win a by-election. Shearer used to advise Goff on Foreign Affairs. They are good mates, and went to school together.

However many in Labour are not happy about the way Goff made the appointment after the Darren Hughes sex allegations. Hughes was Labour’s education spokesperson after a reshuffle saw Grant Robertson promoted from his education spokesperson role, to Health. Both Hughes and Robertson (as well as Iain Lees- Galloway and Chris Hipkins) are former student executives, although Shearer isn’t.

Shearer’s CV [PDF] notes his career has been dedicated to increasing inequality and fairness, and he has spoken out publicly in the media on issues he has felt strongly about.

It remains to be seen whether this dedication will extend to addressing inequality and inequity in education. Who knows how strongly he will feel about addressing such issues to the point he will publicly speak up.

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Will Judith Tizard be an MP again?

Now that Darren Hughes has gone, someone will have to replace him on Labour’s list. The next person on Labour’s list is Judith Tizard, whose most significant achievement in the 18 years she was an MP, was to serve as an MP for 18 years.

Tizard thinks that being a cabinet minister is an awful waste of a Monday. Instead she prefers to sit in the house and knit because "It keeps my hands from going numb and it helps me to concentrate on what's being said".

Phil Goff has said he has no problem with having Tizard back. Indeed, Tizard has said she is eager to get back into knitting politics.

Next on the list are Mark Burton, Mahara Okeroa, Martin Gallagher, Dave Hereora, Louisa Wall, and Lesley Soper. All were MPs until 2008 and most of them will not be on Labour’s list in 2011.

Perhaps this is why a senior Labour Party source, understood to be Andrew Little, is claiming that the next five people on Labour's list may not want to disrupt their lives to sit in the house for such a short time. Of those next on the list, Louisa Wall is the next who will be on the 2011 list.

In order for anyone other than Tizard to take Hughes’ place, Tizard will have to either relinquish her membership of Labour or state her unwillingness to be an MP according to the Electoral Act, or the election date will need to be brought forward to September, and 75% of Parliament agree not to supply a vacancy.

Update It's clear that Labour wants Louisa Wall to be the next MP. Is the list going to be whipped and told what to do, to get her in, now that the senior whip has gone.

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Thursday, March 24, 2011

Darren Hughes and the unnamed 18 year old

It has been widely reported that MP Darren Hughes is the subject of a complaint by an 18-year old. What is not so widely reported, is who this man is. Here’s what we know from the media:

He is 18.
He went to a [deleted - as a half decent google search will assist in revealing this mans name ] high school.
He was a debater – and was at a debate the previous night at Victoria, where Darren Hughes was a participant.
He has an interest in politics – although not affiliated to a political party.
He now lives and goes to university in Wellington.
He was a youth MP for a Labour List MP in 2010. That MP was not Darren Hughes.

Now,[deleted] thanks to the media, it is not too hard to find out who this person is. I have been told of a few other relevant facts that have not been revealed in the media. Also, the the more people come out and say it's not them, the easier it is to narrow down possibilities.

I thought I'd update this post. While all of the above is in the public domain, there is also a recent case where a comedian has had his name suppressed after pleading guilty to an indecency charge.Apparently his guilty plea on a lesser charge was to reduce his sentence, after initially being charged with unlawful sexual connection.

Many think his name should not be suppressed. I agree if the revelation of his name would not identify the victim. But as certain details relating to the case have not been suppressed, later revelation of his name could identify the victim.

If the courts and the media were a little more careful about what facts should be revealed, perhaps this name suppression could have been interim, not permanent, and the name of the 18-year old may not have been so easy to find.

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Monday, March 21, 2011

Why Hone Harawira’s new party will fail

I am of the opinion that Hone Harawira wants to form a Maori party if he can get enough left wing people alongside that will cope with his Maori nationalism. But none of them will get into Parliament to join Harawira.

Waatea News reports that Harawira will not, “at this time” contest the Maori seats outside his own.

This can only mean that Harawira is banking on keeping his seat and getting 1.5 per cent of the party vote to bring in an additional member, as Rodney Hide did in 2005 and Jim Anderton did in 2002.
It’s looking like there is going to be a new party. It will be announced round about the middle of next month. I can’t say yet when the candidates will be announced. I can say that at this time it is not my intention to stand candidates in the Maori seats against the Maori Party members,” Mr Harawira says.
My guess is that the people he wants to attract will be unwilling to vote for his party in numbers that secure this additional parliamentary representation. Those on the Maori roll will also be unable to vote for his candidates, the exception being Te Tai Tokerau. That seat will be the sole possibility of a Maori mandate for the Harawira party – in essence, just Harawira. Most of those on Maori roll will have a Labour or Maori Party representative as their constituent MP.

Harawira has said that he wants a Maori-focused party and a decision to form a party rests with the elders of Te Tai Tokerau. If these elders want a Maori focused party, it will have to contest the Maori seats and have a Maori mandate.A left wing Maori Party will only get some Maori - mainly disaffected Maori Party voters who will not be able to cast candidate votes for the new party if they are on the Maori roll. They won’t cast party votes in large numbers for Harawira’s party either as it will be seen as a wasted vote.

Should Harawira bother to form his party without contesting Maori seats he will effectively give Maori no greater option than they currently have to elect candidates he puts up.


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Head Juror speaks out on smacking acquittal

The Head juror in this case has written to Family First's Bob McCoskrie.
What the Star Times didn’t say and Sue Bradford doesn’t know, is the child punched the step-mother in the stomach whilst she was pregnant stating he wished the baby would die. On another occasion, we saw photographs of bruising, cuts and abrasions that the son had inflicted on the step-mother – knocking her to the ground. This was her reward for attempting to prevent the child using a bicycle that didn’t belong to him. After hours and hours of searching they finally brought the child home late at night. He then went on to threaten to kill himself and the other children sleeping in the house. Conveniently, none of this is mentioned in the Star Times article – just the desperate attempts by the father to protect his family and the child from himself portrayed in a way that makes him look like a monster – he is far from it.

The Jury found both the father and the step-mother not guilty on all 15 charges presented in less than an hour.

It was not until after we had delivered our verdicts that we learned the eldest of the children and co-incidentally the boy father and step-mother had struggled with who had travelled to Hamilton for the case with his custodial parent completely trashed the Motel room supplied for their use during the trial. It was three days before the room could be put to rights enough to be used by the Motel for guests.


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Sunday, March 20, 2011

Preventing offensive or disruptive behaviour

The Sunday Star Times reports that a jury has acquitted a couple of 15 charges alleging cruelty against children relating to the current “anti-smacking” legislation.
A jury has set a new benchmark under the so-called “anti-smacking” legislation by acquitting a father even though he admitted tying his son to his wrist, shaving his hair off, and washing his mouth out with soap.
The case tested the amendment and showed what a jury would allow in terms of “justified force” to prevent or minimise harm, or to stop the child engaging in “offensive or disruptive behaviour”.
So, what was the punishment for this disruptive behaviour – and under what circumstances?
I grabbed my tie that I wear for church and I tied his wrist to my wrist beside my bed so he couldn’t take off and go and kill himself. Then he did manage to loosen it, so I did tie it around his neck for only about 30 seconds. I admitted to those things in court, but given the circumstances and what I was trying to achieve – trying to stop him killing himself – I was found not guilty.
There are two issues here. One is the use of corrective discipline, the other is the use of non-corrective discipline for preventing disruptive behaviour. The current law allows administration of the latter, not the former. This is the express intent of Parliament, as this amendment from Chester Borrows failed to pass. It would have defined reasonable force equally for both corrective and non-corrective discipline. This definition precludes the use of any weapon, tool or implement - like a tie perhaps.

As this case was discipline, albeit not of a corrective nature, the jury still had to decide whether the force was reasonable in the circumstances (to legally justify it). Sue Bradford considers all physical discipline is unjustifiable, believing it to be unreasonable and unacceptable abuse.
I'm not familiar with the details of the case but the sort of things you are talking about – to me they are all assaults against children. And I think it's really sad that a jury would think that those kind of activities are acceptable.
Bradford doesn’t appear to want to consider whether “these kinds of activities” were to prevent offensive or disruptive behaviour. Bradford’s stated intention in the anti-smacking legislation was to remove force for the purposes of correction,whatever the circumstances, but what she also wanted was to remove any force administered to children.

She failed to achieve this. In this case, based on info from news reports, the decision would have been the same under the old law, but not under the Borrows amendment.Indeed, Bob McCoskrie reveals, among other things that some of the charges were laid under the old law, after a grumpy ex-partner initiated the involvement of CYFS.

Perhaps the intent of Parliament is that most who would have been acquitted under the old law should be acquitted under the current law.If so, police should use discretion a lot more wisely when deciding to prosecute.

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Wednesday, March 16, 2011

John Key must have known that Christchurch could not have hosted rugby games

On Tuesday, John Key said Christchurch's AMI stadium could be capable of hosting Rugby World Cup matches. In response to Phil Goff doubting the games could be held at AMI stadium, Key said it was a question of whether the stadium could be fixed, whether the turf could be repaired.

Key's implication is that Christchurch may be able to host the games at AMI Stadium.

Yet the day before, V-Base board of directors had a meeting and decided that there was no time to repair the stadium, and wrote to Martin Sneddon telling him so. " Due to the lack of time contingency, and the significant risks... the required level of assurance cannot be given to RNZ 2011 Ltd that Stadium Christchurch can meet its RWC 2011 contractual obligations," they said.

The same day put this on its website, saying the turf could not be fixed in time for the game and the accommodation gap could not be closed.

It seems unbelievable that John Key would not have know this information when he spoke to the media the day after the V-Base meeting when he said the stadium could be capable of holding the matches. Martin Sneddon knew otherwise and had already made arrangements for replacement venues.


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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Whanganui to fix up its gang patch bylaw

Whanganui District Council wants to write a new bylaw banning gang patches after the High Court found its current bylaw was illegal, as it did not specify which places the ban applied. Its specified places referred to “ all public places” under the control of the Council.

In other words, they didn’t draft the bylaw[PDF] correctly. So the Hells Angels sought a judicial review of the bylaw and won.

So there will be a new Wanganui District Council (Gang Insignia Prohibition) Bylaw. Except this time the Council wants assistance from central government to assist with the legal and financial aspects of drafting the bylaw. This should come into force in September.


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Sunday, March 13, 2011

Who is right?

The Takutai Moana Bill is clearly racist in that it protects the 12,500 odd privately held by pakeha titles to the foreshore and seabed but forces Maori to go to court to prove their title to their takutai moana, says John Popota, who is leading a hikoi to Parliament this week.

Iwi won’t have to prove their claims in court,” says the Coastal Coalition.


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Saturday, March 12, 2011

I might have to start blogging again

Just sayin'....
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