BIG NEWS: 09/01/2011 - 10/01/2011

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Don Brash wants to decriminalise smack


Act leader Don Brash is calling for the decriminalisation of smacking.

He says prohibition of smacking hasn't worked, and policing it costs tax payer dollars and clogs up the court system.

He told Big News there are other ways to restrict the use of smacking.

"It's estimated thousands of New Zealanders smack on a fairly regular basis, many are persecuted every year, and thousands of tax payer dollars is spent to police this law," says Mr Brash.

More here.Full speech here.

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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

In Australia, Catholic priest accused of rape was named in parliament

A Catholic priest is seeking to clear his name after being accused in the Australian parliament of raping a trainee priest 40 years ago.

Adelaide priest Monsignor Ian Dempsey was named by Senator Nick Xenophen under parliamentary privilege last week as the alleged rapist of former Catholic priest John Hepworth, who is currently primate of the Traditional Anglican Communion.

“For four years allegations have been outstanding that priest Ian Dempsey raped John Hepworth, and that church leadership has failed to make appropriate inquiries into this matter,”

Dempsey said he had “absolutely not” had a sexual relationship with Hepworth, and may make a statement in the Senate to clear his name.

In a letter to Xenophen, Dempsey accused the senator of smearing and denigrating his reputation.

“I have a reputation for honesty and integrity. I am innocent of these allegations for which you used parliamentary privilege to name me.”

“You did not even bother to find out about any matter relevant to this case except from one source, John Hepworth. You never contacted me.”

Hepworth told the Church of the allegations in 2007, but Xenophen told parliament that Adelaide Archdiocese vicar-general Monsignor David Cappo failed to properly investigate.

Cappo denied allegations were investigated inappropriately, and resigned his appointment as chair of the Australian government’s new Mental Health Commission.

Hepworth said he broke from the Catholic Church because of rapes by three priests, two of whom are deceased.

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Thursday, September 15, 2011

Nearly half those who come off the dole don’t get jobs

Last month the Minster of Social Development announced that more than 6,700 New Zealanders went off welfare and into work in July 2011.

I was curious, so I asked the minister’s office if that meant that everyone who went off the unemployment benefit in July went to work. I was told that was correct.

I have now found out -via the OIA - that this is now incorrect and have also been told that the Government has no idea as to whether the work was full time or not. Paula Bennett says, “Some of the trends we’re seeing are more full-time jobs, more women in work, increasing wages and more hours for workers.”

Yet she has no idea whether how many full time jobs are secured by those off benefits. Many may well be on short term or part time contracts (like doing work associated with the Rugby World Cup) and end up back on the benefit shortly after.

What Bennett didn’t say was that in July, 7496 left the unemployment benefit but only 4213 went to work. So 44 per cent of those who came off the unemployment benefit in July did so for reasons other than work. Most started full time study, probably because they couldn’t find a job.

I also sought to find out why benefits were being paid to those who were not supposed to be getting benefits after 7400 benefits were cancelled after beneficiaries failed to reapply for their benefit after 12 months.

According to media reports
Half of the people who were now off it did not reapply. Of the other half, 2000 were already in work, 1400 had left the county, were in study or failed the work test.

Prime Minister John Key said it could be assumed those people were in work. But 300 of them had failed a work test and were on a stand down period, 365 had entered study as they could not get a job. A third of the 1400 had left the benefit for reasons other than stated. Around 230 had left New Zealand, but WINZ was not prepared to tell me how long each had received a benefit before leaving without charging me. Nearly 400 were cancelled for “other” reasons which WINZ simply could not tell me.

Of the 7400 benefits cancelled, WINZ does not know why half (3698) didn’t reapply – nor could they tell me how long they paid benefits before cancelling. Some may have simply left the country.

But there is a pattern. Just half those who leave an unemployment benefit get work. Meaning that when the workforce increases, a good proportion of the increase is from those who were not previously receiving the unemployment benefit.

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Gay marriage in Australia

Over the past few weeks there has been an interesting debate in the Australian Parliament over marriage equality.

Just to recap, in September last year, the Greens reintroduced a Marriage Equality bill in Parliament, but in November Parliament couldn’t agree to a conscience vote on the issue and there was no way a party vote would progress the bill. PM Julia Gillard opposes marriage equality.

So the Greens got a motion through the House that meant MPs had to consult their constituents. The response was interesting for several reasons: Most MPs oppose gay marriage, most Labor MPs support gay marriage ( even though its official policy reflects Gillard’s position) , most Australians support gay marriage – the latest Roy Morgan poll on the issue had it at 68 per cent - but, of the MPs who reported back to Parliament after the consultation, most stated that their constituents did not support it.

Labor has its annual conference in December and a conscience vote among Labor is being discussed to avoid party in-fighting at the conference. Yet, as 2/3rds of Aussie politicians oppose gay marriage( but 2/3rds of the public support it), it remains to be seen whether such a conscience vote in Parliament on gay marriage – if it ever happens any time soon - is a vote reflective of an MPs own conscience or the collective conscience of constituents' they polled and represent.

Anyway, here's a story on an Australian Catholic politician who, along with his constituents, supports gay marriage - yet his party and his church officially don't.

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Monday, September 12, 2011

9/11 -what I was doing

I expect to be hit by a deluge of emails on 9/11 stories overnight, as part of the monitoring I do, but as a journalist have not written any 9/11 stories for two reasons: I haven't been assigned any and I cant be bothered finding any.

Many people knew what they were doing when they found out about 9/11 - as they did when Princess Di died and as they did when they found out that Elvis Presley died. To me, these were the three most significant " what were you doing when..." events.

Churches and media outlets world wide are 9/11ing. Its full on with sermons and stories. Its hard to believe that the terror was 10 years ago. So in the spirit of 9/11( because it is 9/11 today in the US) I`ll recall what I was doing on the day. It was a working day and I was in my car on the way to work about 8am - I was a journalist for a community newspaper - and I turned on the radio. All I heard was high pitched urgent commentary and that was the first I knew of 9/11. It didn't take me long to realise that something significant was happening in the US, but I had no idea of its significance.

It wasn't until I got to work and sat myself in front of the TV for the next two hours - as the rest of the office did - and took in the tragedy. I managed to write a few stories and then rushed home to get the TV on and it was on pretty much constantly.

And those images wont go away any time soon.

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