BIG NEWS: 07/01/2011 - 08/01/2011

Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Green Paper for Vulnerable Children: we can talk about child abuse now. But don't do anything about it just yet..

The governments response to child abuse is clear: have a chat about it until 28 February 2012 when submissions to the Green Paper close. I’ve now read it. Have read most of it before. Several times.

Here’s some extracts:
Government isn’t afraid to challenge itself and openly debate these issues with New Zealanders to find solutions that will help our children.
When is the open debate going to start? Am I allowed to play? The Minister says it is the “single most important debate we can have”. We should have had it years ago but we were more interested in debating whether we should smack our kids.
To achieve the best results for vulnerable children, New Zealand needs strong leadership, stability, accountability and long-term commitment.
But that has got to translate into action, not smiling and waving.
Getting good services for vulnerable children may not need new money but a more effective targeting of money already in the system and a commitment to invest in programmes with a sound evidence base
This is a “hot air” statement.
We may be spending on programmes and services that are not based on sound evidence or delivered effectively. When Government implements new policies, they need to be evaluated
So if they need to be, why the conscious refusal to evaluate?
The Government wants all children to receive the services they, and their families and whanau, need to thrive, belong and achieve. However, some children and their families and whanau do not receive essential child services for a variety of reasons. For example, their parents may not know where or how to access services, there may be a lack of appropriate services available, they may not be able to access services, or they may not want to engage with these services.
Or because the service providers do not communicate the services that the needy need to be advised of, and that’s okay by governments.
The Government wants services delivered to children, and their families and whanau, to be readily accessible, acceptable and appropriate.
And you know what, it has absolutely no idea how this should be done effectively.

This Green Paper is to National what the anti-smacking legislation was to Labour – an ineffective bandaid over a growing problem.

Minister Paula Bennett says child abuse has to stop. So, can we do something about it, then rather than adding some new ideas to previously rehashed ones that were ignored by governments.

Instead, getting National MPs to do media releases that all say the same thing with the same quotes and comments in an attempt to be seen to do something about child abuse is a bit like all those Labour MPs who smiled and nodded in unison behind Phil Goff when they wanted to do something about Goff's leadership and Labour's poor polling.

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Our hungry kids - and our selfish parents

Was watching this programme on Campbell Live where a beneficiary on $529 a week was spending not much more than $100 a week on food and didn’t have enough to feed his three kids. He didn’t send them to school some days because he couldn’t give them lunch as he had no food.

Yet not all parents who fail to give their kids breakfast are that hard up. I have kids. They get breakfast every day. They go to school and come home and tell me that many of their classmates don’t have breakfast.

It’s not that their parents can’t afford to give their kids breakfast, it’s just that they leave for work at 7.30am and drop their kids off to school and don’t want to get up earlier to give their kids breakfast.

So the kids miss out. And the parents no doubt have breakfast at work. This is unacceptable. It is also unacceptable that schools have to feed these kids when their parents either get Working for Families payments or are earning enough to get them over the cut-off threshold.

For parents who are on low incomes, it’s tough. Its even tougher on a benefit. But you can feed your kids porridge at about $50 every three months if you buy it in bulk. The biggest cost is the milk. If parents don’t want to do this for their kids to ensure they don’t miss out on breakfast – it’s called budgeting - there is something wrong with them. For those on benefits you can get a food grant from WINZ which will pay for nine month’s worth of porridge.

Kids should not go hungry because of parent’s poor choices. But they do. It is those parents who don’t have a choice that should get the assistance – such as the man on Campbell Live. Because he deserves it. In fact, if a lot more parents cared for their kids like this dad does,and fed their kids breakfast before work, our kids would be better off. But this man didn't appear to be applying for the assistance that is available from WINZ. He should.

And he doesn't eat porridge. But he does both need and deserve more support - and its good that he is getting it.

But none of it is from the government - its to make up for his substandard benefit income.

He even got a heater to heat his house. I'm so pleased.

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www.electionresults.co.nz is here

Political journalists, activists and junkies now have 24/7 access to New Zealand's most accurate forecast of the 2011 election result, following today's launch by New Zealand's online predictions market, iPredict, of this site on election results. It’s edited by Ian Llewellyn, a former press gallery political reporter for The Independent business weekly and the NZPA, and powered by the iPredict market. iPredict is owned by Victoria University.

The latest forecasts are here. Interesting that Peter Dunne has a higher percentage chance of retaining his Ohariu-Belmont seat than Auckland's Nikki Kaye has of retaining hers, and the Maori Party may get three seats. Also National is twice as likely as Labour to win New Plymouth.
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Monday, July 25, 2011

The story behind Hannah Tamaki's bid for the Maori Women’s Welfare League presidency

There has been a lot of coverage about Destiny Church pastor Hannah Tamaki’s bid to be the president of the Maori Women’s Welfare League (MMWL), which at the end of May had 2850 members.

This post outlines that payments for 921 new MWWL subscriptions were paid through a Destiny Church- affiliated taxpayer-funded Urban Maori Authority, in a failed attempt to get the maximum votes for Hannah Tamaki’s presidency bid.

The 10 branches were formed just hours before several Maori MPs were asked for Whanau Ora funding at the same conference - for the very fund that the MMWL subscriptions were subsequently paid from.

Tamaki’s mother was a member of the MWWL, and Tamaki herself is not only a member but is the president of the Wahine Toa branch. This branch is one of three affiliated to Destiny church through its Urban Maori Authority, Te Runanga A Iwi O Te Oranga Ake. This UMA was given $850,000 for government contracts for social services, but the funding has now dried up.

As the Church cannot secure contracts for social services, Tamaki probably decided that becoming president of the MWWL may do the trick and secure contracts, but she needed the votes. There were 1100 women at Destiny’s annual conference on 4 June, and 921 of them - including Winston Peters' mother sister - were signed up to the League through 10 different newly formed branches all at the same time. All had between 91-93 members. A branch has to have 91 financial members to secure the maximum of 10 votes for the Presidency – so 90 extra votes for Tamaki out of 430 votes. A branch of 90 has just 5 votes, and a branch of 10, 1 vote.

However all membership fees, totalling more than $9200, were paid by one inter-bank transfer by Destiny Church – through Te Oranga Ake, who got their funding from the taxpayer. It appears however that all members were invoiced and have apparently paid their MMWL fees to Destiny Church.

So it was clear that this Destiny conference setup was done to stack votes for Hannah Tamaki’s presidency bid by well over 25 per cent , just as it was clear that Maori MPs were invited to the same conference on the same day to secure Whanau Ora funding.

However none of the 10 MMWL branches were financial as at 30 June, the date the ballot papers were sent out for the presidency, missing Tamaki’s name. Tamaki took the League to court as her name was removed, and it was revealed that the 10 branches subscriptions were paid from 1 July 2011. So while members in the new branches cannot vote, the three financial members affiliated to Destiny church can – and the court has decided that Tamaki’s name will be on the ballot paper, one of eight candidates.

Tamaki has pledged to resign from her pastoral role at Destiny should she win, and also to donate her entire presidential salary to the league.

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Saturday, July 23, 2011

The politicians have spoken on Ohariu-Belmont

It is clear that one of two people will win Ohariu-Belmont (my electorate) in 2011- Labour’s Charles Chauvel or United Future leader Peter Dunne, just like in 2008. But it always was clear.

While a competent MP, Gareth Hughes from the Greens will not win, and is campaigning for the party vote. Many National Party supporters prefer Peter Dunne over Katrina Shanks, so Shanks has no option but to campaign for the party vote.

So, if you are a Green supporter, you have been advised to vote for Chauvel, if you are a National supporter, Peter Dunne. Katrina Shanks, who is currently 55 on the party list, was so out of touch that she did not even realise a deal was done by National to have their supporters vote for Dunne.

The thing is, Hughes is quite happy to ask his supporters to vote for fellow list MP Chauvel, but Shanks is not so happy that her supporters are being told to vote for Dunne. She think’s Dunne is desperate. Chauvel, meanwhile says that he doesn’t particularly like such deals saying that voters don’t like being told what to do. He is saying that because he knows that the National-Dunne deal is indeed a Dunne deal and he will not be the local MP.

Chauvel said he will be running a "time for a change" campaign – apparently in April. So far we’ve heard nothing in the electorate about that,( he's too busy focusing on the important issues). However he did say I`ll be satisfied with having my voice heard on the things that matter to me”.

Those in Ohariu-Belmont want to have candidates voices heard on things that matter to them.

John Pagani writes that any voters who wanted to be represented by Mr Dunne would have supported him in 2008. Goff says Dunne is irrelevant. Chauvel calls Dunne a faceless party boss, but it is Dunne who goes to the school fairs, and sticks around to talk to people, while Chauvel just pops his head in and takes off after spinning the raffle wheel. Shanks on the other hand, pops in to a school fair and can’t remember the name of the school when she leaves.

Yet the word on the ground is that lots of people deserted Dunne because of his support of the Labour Government. Many didn’t like Dunne’s support or Labour or his position on the anti-smacking legislation and voted Shanks, who also supported it.

This time around those on the right have got no reason to vote for Shanks, and no reason not to vote against Dunne.

Finally, anyone visited http://charles2011.co.nz here?

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Sunday, July 17, 2011

My Mummy’s a criminal

I often get a bit tired of hearing about the smacking debate, but just thought it was newsworthy that a website Protect Good Parents went online today.

Administered by the Family First Lobby, it features a video which I’ve embedded here with a bit of a commentary. It features five families that were criminalised as a result of the anti-smacking law and comments on a review by psychologist Nigel Latta, a review that the government has claimed is evidence that that the anti-smacking legislation is "working", because nobody has been criminalised.



Provocatively entitled My Mummy’s A Criminal this 30 minute video aims to show that people were getting investigated, arrested, prosecuted and hassled by CYFS for smacking their children. It shows interviews with smacking parents and how CYFS failed to follow its own procedures in investigating alleged smacking.

One family faced around 15 charges of abuse. It went to court. The lead juror was appalled she had to use her jury service time – almost four weeks - to preside over such a case, only to acquit them of all charges in 25 minutes. The juror says:
I was embarrassed…. I was so embarrassed to be a New Zealander. This poor wee girl that has fallen in love and married her man, ends up in what should be the happiest time of her life being tortured. Who really was cruel.
However, CYFS did not respect the acquittal as this family still do not have their children. There has been no contact for more than two and a half years - that’s eight months after their acquittal.

Another family was having difficulty with one of their children so they went to CYFS for help, but the parent was told the problem was with him - he had an anger problem.

Another parent poked her son with a pen. While that is not really “smacking” it does seem that it is something pretty trivial to get arrested for, and then put in a police cell. After appearing in court four months later, this parent was discharged without conviction because the judge said the pen was used “in a manner which was tapping a child on the back of the hand”.

One family got their kids taken away from them after alleged abuse caused by smacking and later received an apology from CYFS for the way they were treated. Their case was given a “critical” rating, a rating given to cases of rape or broken bones, and normally requires removal of children within 24 hours. Yet their kids weren’t taken away from them until three days later. They are now trying to have incorrect facts about their family in the Latta report [PDF] reviewed.

John Key was asked in 2009 whether a parent who smacked a child on the leg in the back of a car would get arrested. His response?
Well, I don’t think you could get arrested for that.
The video showed an interview of a person who was apparently convicted - not just arrested - for doing just that, although details are rather skant.

The video also mentions the Latta review [PDF] . One of the parents claimed that the review incorrectly states that their daughter was sexually abused; this family is alleging four breaches of CYFS procedure that were hidden from Latta. Another part of the report says that one parent was convicted of assault when he in fact was not.

Lawyer - and Labour Party candidate for Carterton - Michael Bott says the Latta review was a rubber stamping exercise.

Prime Minister John Key also features in the video, as does Labour leader Phil Goff. In 2009 Key said:
If you lightly smack a child, you shouldn’t be prosecuted, and you certainly shouldn’t be investigated. If the law doesn’t work and people do start getting arrested, or start getting prosecuted, I will change the law.
In 2008 John Key said
if we start seeing… good parents being hauled before the courts – then I’m going to do something about it.
John Key was handed a copy of the video on July 8.

Meanwhile latest figures show that 64 children have died while in the care of Child, Youth and Family over the last 10 years. A third were recorded as suicide.

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Saturday, July 16, 2011

New video released tonight: Smacking parents get CYF’d and hauled before the Courts

The other week when I was at the Family First Forum, a video was screened that featured a few couples who have been hauled before the courts after being charged with assault after they smacked their kids.

The 30 minute video and associated website is embargoed until midnight tonight and as I have been given advance copies of both I`ll be blogging about them when the embargo has lifted, and will be embedding the video in full.

When I saw the video, it reduced some to tears at the unjust treatment given to smacking parents by authorities.

Some parents have had their kids taken away from them, others still haven’t had them returned. I spoke with one couple who are featured in the video and may blog about their story later, but the video also features legal counsel for one of the families – who so happens to be a Labour candidate for the 2011 election – and a lead juror who presided over a smacking case she considered should never have gone to trial.

The website also features an article in this Investigate magazine which casts doubt on the thoroughness of this Nigel Latta review on smacking.

Anyway, if you have or have had strong feelings or opinions on the section 59 smacking debate, you`ll want to watch this video, no matter what side of the debate you are on.

You`ll get your chance from midnight tonight, when I blog it. The video will either make you angry at the treatment given to these families or annoyed that the treatment has been exposed in video form for the very first time.

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Dodgy Grab One promotion

I get the Grab One offers in my in-box regularly, and as a lover of coffee I was interested in the $20 for 10 Regular Mojo Coffees at Pure Espresso (value $44). We have one in the suburb in which I live. The promotion says:
Pay just $20 for 10 regular mojo coffees at Pure Espresso and indulge in a taste that will please you over and over again. Make a quick stop before work"

In order to have a taste that will please you "over and over again" the implication is that you can use the promotion to make 10 quick stops before work.

Wrong.

The conditions say that this offer can only be used in one visit. Who is going to either drink 10 coffees or have 9 mates in a cafe for a quick stop before work in the suburbs? The place doesn't look like it fits 10 people.

Wonder how many people will get this? So far 37 have.

update Have made further inquiries, apparently the offer can be "used" on one visit - and that "use" on the first visit is to get a coffee card, which can be used in nine subsequent visits. Pity the ad was so badly worded, and that there is no mention of a coffee card.

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Sunday, July 10, 2011

Why are minor party Maori ministers within Cabinet so important to Maori?

A Horizon poll –of fewer than 500 – indicates that Maori do not want the Maori or Mana parties to enter a National Cabinet. They’d rather them enter a Labour cabinet or support a government on an issue by issue basis- as opposed to entering government under the Maori Party's current arrangements.

It’s quite clear that Mana will not have a presence in a Labour Cabinet after the election, if Phil Goff is to be believed. But it is unlikely that any Mana or Maori party MP will be a Cabinet minister whoever is the government after the election.

The Horizon media releasesays that just 16.1% of Maori want the Maori Party to again accept Cabinet seats in a National led Government, 43.5% in a Labour led Government. Again? There has never been any ministers of support parties in Cabinet - including the Maori Party.

Fewer Maori want Mana to accept cabinet seats. Only 9.7% want Mana to accept Cabinet seats in a National led Government, but 38.7% in a Labour led one. It is unclear how many wanted them to accept Cabinet posts – indeed, or to refuse Cabinet posts - irrespective of whoever is the government.

Notwithstanding the agree to disagree procedures, I really wonder why so many Maori are so keen to have their minor parties accept Cabinet posts, along with the associated collective responsibility - particularly given the implosion and loss of support of minor coalition parties with Maori Cabinet Ministers. Just 2.8% of Maori surveyed would prefer the Maori Party to govern with ministers outside of cabinet (our current arrangements), with less than 2% stating likewise for the Mana Party.

Around a third wanted each party to offer support to the government on an issue by issue basis. However there was no breakdown of the split on offering support to a Labour-led government as opposed to a National government as the question wasn’t asked.

The best chance of Mana and Maori party MPs have of being ministers is outside of Cabinet. It looks like many Maori who support these two parties are going to be unhappy after the election.

Poll results are here.

Just as an aside, I wonder how many would like the Mana and Maori parties to do a pre-election deal. Because those who do will be disappointed too. It won't happen. Both parties will do their own thing - and no doubt attack each other.

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Saturday, July 09, 2011

Goff and Key talked to Family First – but didn’t say much

I attended a forum by the Family First lobby in Auckland yesterday, predominately to hear how John Key and Phil Goff would respond to questions from Family First’s Bob McCoskrie.

I came away wondering why their answers were so non-committal given that both leaders’ offices were sent a full list of questions beforehand, of which I have a copy. So rather than getting sprung, they had plenty of time to prepare answers to uncomfortable questions on the usual Family First topics; same sex adoption, euthanasia, child prostitution and parental notification for teen abortions. As both got the same questions they could have even shared notes.

Both were asked about marriage and family. Key said that marriage was a partnership between two people, and commitment was the key to a successful marriage.

Goff also said it was between two people- with legal safeguards built into that.

When pressed about the gender of these “two people”, Key was asked whether he’d vote for a gay marriage bill.

“That’s something I’d have to think through,” he said.

Pretty non-committal, really.

Goff’s response to a similar question on #Goffchat on Twitter wasn’t much better. ”Labour supported civil unions, when National opposed them. Not intending to make further changes”.
So that’s an “I don’t want to tell you”, from Key, and an “I don’t want to progress this”, from Goff.

Key was then as asked whether he thought the safest place for a child to be was in a marriage relationship. His one word answer: “Yes”. Goff said the gender of parents was irrelevant to good parenting. He said that a stable supportive and healthy environment ( to bring up kids) was his bottom line.

“It’s not the gender of parents, but the ability for parents to provide a stable loving environment – what would be different about parenting if it was biological?”

So that’s a “yes” from Key, and a “not necessarily” from Goff.

When asked if life starts at conception or later on, Goff said, “ 12 weeks, 20 weeks, who is to say?

Key said, “Well, you certainly hope it is before the first Plunket visit” - another throw-away line. He wasn’t asked when he thought the first Plunket visit should be, but instead he was asked whether parents should be notified should their teen be considering an abortion.

“In my view for the most part yes, unless there is a very very good reason, I think parents should be told”.

Goff said while it was desirable for counsellors to encourage a girl to talk to her parents, “would a girl confide in a counsellor if she thought that the counsellor would go directly to her parents – my guess is that she wouldn’t”.

So that’s an “I don’t know and don’t particularly care” from both Goff and Key on when life starts. It’s a "no" from Goff on parental notification - and a "sort of yes" from Key.

They were also asked whether they believed in God and faith. Instead, both gave answers on what they didn’t believe in.

Key on God: “I wouldn’t describe myself as atheistic or agnostic, I live my life by Christian principles, I live my life to help others. I can’t tell you what happens the moment you die”.

But he then said “I do think you have a spirit that moves to the next…..” but he then stopped abruptly, perhaps realising he had just said he didn’t know what happened in the afterlife, which in a way makes him a bit agnostic.

That response was similar to what he said in 2007, that is he said what he doesn’t believe, rather than what he does. He said then “I’m not deeply religious, and I don’t believe in life after death.” He said his stock answer in 2006,also.

Goff’s response was similar: “I`m not an atheist. I don’t believe in the afterlife. I`m a person of faith – born and bred a Roman Catholic, and my life has been shaped by the Christian values I was brought up with.”

Later, Key also said he ”might support” laws on same sex adoption, and told conference delegates that the government may adopt National MP Sam Lotu-Ii’ga’s
Moneylenders (Licensing and Regulation) Bill [PDF] to address loan sharking.

Among the final comments from both:

Goff: “It’s too easy to be a plastic politician”.

Key, on personal attacks in the House: “Frankly, I think Pete Hodgson is a loser”.

So the two leaders did their best to say… well not much, hoping that they`ll get some votes out of it.

Instead both got standing ovations.

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Thursday, July 07, 2011

Heather Roy wastes $10,000 of taxpayers money

ACT MP Heather Roy is constantly complaining that the Labour Party is wasting a lot of time debating a bill in parliament that is ahead of her own bill on student associations, on the Order Paper. The bill aims to amend the Royal Society of New Zealand Act 1997. However, as Roy often notes, Parliament coats $450,000 an hour to run, and she is sick to death of Labour's filibustering on a bill to prevent her own one passing.

So what does Roy do? She asks a series of questions in Parliament about the Royal Society on Members Day - at question time. Her questions and associated responses took 7.16 minutes of Parliaments time and we learned... well nothing at all really.

As well as wasting questions in the House that others could have answered instead, the time cost the taxpayer nearly $53,000.

What a waste.

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Doing your nut

Idiot /Savant has just done his nut about the Chief Executive of the Department of Conservation telling a select committee that there will be no job losses in his department the day before announcing that 100 people will be losing their jobs.

Green MP Kevin Hague , who was on the committee, says he believed MPs were entitled to a more "careful and direct" response to their concerns.

It sounds like CE Al Morrison has misled the committee – on purpose. Idiot/Savant is calling for him to be sacked.

I’m not - and here’s why.

Firstly, Morrison knows how to answer questions. As a former senior journalist of both the (now) Dominion Post, and Radio New Zealand, he knows how to ask them too. He was asked whether any science positions would be lost. He replied he was not in a position to say.

Apparently, he still isn’t. So calls that Morrison misled the committee arose from him simply answering a direct question put to him. What is wrong with that?

In my experience some of the questions of select committee representatives are either misguided or pointless. Some are even patsy questions that give them the answer they already know. Some are worded in a way that does not give them the answer they desire. They are not "careful and direct" questions – and this appears to be another one of these.

If the member wanted to find out about job losses generally, the question should have been worded that way. It wasn’t. So why should Morrison be sacked for simply answering the question put to him?

However if any of the 100 jobs were science jobs, he has misled the committee, and he has lied to the media as well.

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VSM bill won't be passed before the election

Students will continue to get freedom to choose – at least when they enrol this year for summer school and early next year - whether to opt out of student association membership or remain members (as opposed to having to decide whether to join) as it looks like the VSM bill, which would make student association membership voluntary, will not be passed before the election in November.

Act MP Heather Roy, who is to quit parliament at the election, looks like she’s been filibustered. Filibustering is when lots of speeches are made in parliament on a bill for a great length of time to delay passage of dodgy legislation. Like the VSM bill.

Phil Goff has said Labour will filibuster right up to the election if it has to.

Today was Members Day. As Roy’s bill is a members bill, it can only be debated every second Wednesday, which is Members Day. Tonight after parliament finished, Heather Roy – who was on House duty for her party so had to be in the House for Members Day - drowned her filibustering sorrows by listening to Radio One – a station owned by Otago University Students’ Association, under threat because of her bill.

Because the government refuses to adopt Roy’s bill, it is a Members bill. However there is a bill called the Royal Society Amendment Bill which is taking up a lot of time. This bill has 21 clauses and they are up to clause 11. Each clause can be debated for an hour – so that’s around 10 more hours to be debated before the third reading, which itself would take a couple of hours - and then there are two more local bills due back from committee to take precedence on the Order Paper.

Yet time will run out as there is not enough hours of Members Day time before the election even if the Government doesn’t take urgency.

The bill won't go away - it can be picked up by another member after the election. Labour is hoping that it will have less support after the election. Meanwhile, a bill that amends the Royal Society of New Zealand Act 1997, by incorporating the humanities into the objects and functions of the Society; changing the name of the Academy Council to the Academy Executive Committee; amending the standard for the election of Companions of the Society; and amending the election process for Councillors of the Society ( ok, that`ll do), has been very good for students.

Given that the bill may not be passed before it commencement date of 1 January 2012, or when students enrol for 2012, perhaps it is time for Heather Roy to pull the bill so that other bills can be debated and passed on Members Days. After all, it costs $450,000 an hour to run Parliament and pulling the bill would only assist in passing legislation, thus using the time more effectively. Makes sense, really.

However, the current filibustering is a much more effective use of time than passing the VSM legislation that nobody except a handful of politicians and their rag-tag bunch of supporters want. Nearly all of these supporters won’t even be attending university from 2012.

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Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Children in poverty

According to reporting from Simon Collins:

22 per cent of all children live in poverty
One in six European children
One in four Maori children
One in three Pacific children

What percentage live with both parents who are married to each other?
What percentage of those who live in poverty have also been abused by their caregivers - and of these children, what proportion are living with both their mother and their father under the same roof?

Will the Maori Affairs Select Committee, who is to conduct an inquiry into the wellbeing of Maori and Pacific children, even bother to ask these questions?

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What’s happening with the public education campaign on the voting system

As most will know, the Electoral Commission is charged with letting people know about the upcoming referendum on MMP and have done a nationwide mailout on the basics of the four voting systems up for grabs, videos and TV ads. As is always the case, vested interest groups are providing their slant – the most prominent being the Vote for MMP and the Vote for Change groups.

The media and blogosphere have been involved also, with a mixture of fact and misinformation. Graeme Edgeler has been offering a fact-checking service to correct any misinformation.

Some of the discussion is ambigious – for example Vote for Change spokesperson Jordan Williams says he supports a fair electoral system –particularly not a system like MMP where MPs come in off the list after losing their seat – while personally supporting an alternative to MMP that does just that, while at the same time refusing to say what his group publicly supports.

While much of the discussion is political punditry, the voters in Te Tai Tokerau and Taumaranui probably couldn’t care less provide they get their benefits each week. It is these people that are unlikely to vote and it is these people that are to be communicated with via a public communication campaign so that they can make an informed decision and get out and vote..

Yet the main thrust of the Electoral Commission’s campaign will not kick in until six weeks before the election – that’s three months away and right in the middle of the Rugby World Cup final stages. What happens if people believe that if they vote for MMP in the first referendum question it is pointless voting for one of the four alternatives in the second question? What if they don’t want to keep MMP and vote for First Past the Post in the second referendum question because they’d rather have fewer list seats in parliament, or because they’d rather see a reformed version of MMP and don’t know it may be reviewed – or believe it will be reviewed by the government, or reviewed without public input. What if they voted Supplementary Member on the understanding it will be close to a 70/50 list/electorate split - believing it to be a good middle ground between FPP and MMP?

What it will come down to is informed people such as Edgeler, and hopefully the Electoral Commission, to fact check inaccuracies, miscommunication and misinterpretation - but will these messages get through to the wider public in time to make an informed decision come election day?

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Monday, July 04, 2011

On opposing an electoral system

I quite like MMP. And I believe that, in an open democracy, people should be allowed to support MMP, or oppose it - and join related groups. Running a campaign or standing for office, however, is a different matter and background checks are often done.

Martyn Bradbury’s outing of Alex Fogerty, a founding member of anti-MMP group Vote for Change, as a man who has supported white supremist websites in the past, is a case of googling a whole bunch of members of a group that is on the other side of the political fence to dig dirt and publicise it – purely because of their political beliefs. It’s the sort of stuff we have come to expect from Pete Hodgson.

I was aware of Fogerty’s links. I can use Google too. I just didn’t think it was worthwhile publicising these links.

Fogerty, who has links to the National Party, has now been told to resign from Vote for Change. He had no role in the organisation apart from signing up as a founding member. Bradbury incorrectly maintained he had an “active” role. While his name has been deleted from the Vote for Change Website, he is still a founding member and his name is on the documents on the Company Office's website. [ update So is former Waitakere mayor Bob Harvey but he has resigned as well - but is still listed as a supporter on the Vote for Change web site.]

Dunedin North’s Labour candidate David Clark is more shocked that Fogerty is Facebook friends with Dunedin-based National list MP Michael Woodhouse. (They are not now). He wants an explanation. Presumably he’d like to know why Fogerty is facebook friends with Ceila Wade-Brown also, and the rest of his friends.

It’s fair to say I abhor white supremist views, and disagree with Fogerty’s opinions on most things, but I still maintain he should be able to voice political opinions on an electoral system and join groups that encompass these views.

However groups such as Vote for Change that know they are to receive media attention should ensure that their founding members withstand public scrutiny.

The Campaign for MMP has not commented on this – they’d rather play the ball, not the man.

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Friday, July 01, 2011

Upgrading our currency

Bank notes are to be updated and available on 2014. Stuff reports
The Reserve Bank will soon start a project to upgrade New Zealand's bank notes, opening the door to a redesign and, possibly, new faces adorning the currency.

A poll on the Stuff website of potential candidates quickly made the late comedian Billy T James the favourite, ahead of military hero Willie Apiata, running legend Jack Lovelock and opera diva Dame Kiri Te Kanawa.
I thought I`d offer my options:
$100 – The queen mother – she may be dead but she lived to over 100

$50 – Allan Hubbard – to remind us of the 50 fraud charges he is facing

$20 - Edward Te Whiu - to remind us that as a 20-year old, he was hanged for murder

$10 – Dick Taylor, who won the 10,000 Christchurch Commonwealth Games in 1974

$5 - Five-member band Blindspott.

While we are at it, let’s also revamp our coins:

$2 coin. – The New Plymouth $2 shop – the country’s first, and it is still open.

$1 coin – Buck Shelford, for obvious reasons

$.50c - We could go international here and go for 50 cent.

Thoughts?
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National Standards: The government is listening – but only to people who say what it wants to hear

Today, more than 300 schools handed their charters to the Ministry of Education without National Standards information because they believe setting targets for student achievement using National Standards will produce unreliable information. They were supported by the NZEI. All 300 must be processed within 25 working days, as per section 63A of the Education Act 1989.

Coincidentally, there seems to be a bit of a scrap between the NZEI and the government's National Standard’s Advisory group - a group set up to give the sector a voice and provide feedback to the government on the implementation of National Standards.

The group released its latest report after this month's meeting - and included many recommendations.

One was that “the Minister should be invited to approve the launch of a carefully managed process of review of the standards themselves alongside the current monitoring and evaluation of implementation”.

The NZEI responded that while the education sector was saying that the standards were flawed, it was significant that the National Standards Advisory Group was saying that they need to be reviewed.

Not so, responded Professor Gary Hawke, who heads the group. He said that rather than an admission that the standards needed to be reviewed because they were flawed, they were more about beginning to explore “ how continual improvement might be extended to the way the Standards are stated”.

So it’s all about the language - how how certain teachers express how things are done.

Rather than talking to schools that are representative of the sector, the group appears to be only listening to certain schools - called “ leading schools” - who undertake National Standards-speak. These schools claim National Standards is successful, as teachers say they are able to “diagnose where gains in student achievement are available”. The advisory group can then provide palatable advice to the Minister.

Meanwhile the NZEI would rather express things in language other than National Standards and so the two groups are talking past each other.

The schools’ Boards of Trustees and teachers just want the best for their students whatever the Ministry tells them to do. But in correspondence with the Ministry, many are couching language in National Standards terms for fear of reprisal.

Meanwhile in the classroom, most are doing what they have always done, because they recognise that National Standards – however carefully managed - makes no difference to student achievement.

But you won't hear that advice from the advisory group.

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