Friday, June 29, 2012

Gerry Eckhoff: Council Judgments

It appears to be drawing a long bow to compare a 1923 court decision from the Kings Bench in the UK to the hearing of the Otago Regional Councils plan change 6C - Water.

The 1923 decision gave rise to Lord Chief Justice Hewart’s ruling – ‘that justice should appear to be done’ and that no one can sit in judgment in their own cause. The mere appearance of bias by those sitting in judgment is sufficient to overturn a judicial decision as happened in 1923 where a deputy clerk to the Kings bench was also a member of a firm of solicitors acting in a civil claim before the Justices. An appeal against conviction was upheld on the basis of a perception of bias.

Steve Baron: The time for internet voting has arrived

The internet has become intricately entwined in the lives of New Zealanders and has the potential to improve our democracy. A 2010 AUT study showed that as many as 83% of New Zealanders use the internet. While we can enroll to vote online and ballot papers can also be downloaded by New Zealand citizens while overseas, votes cannot be cast over the internet.

The Government, along with the Electoral Commission, appears to be dragging the chain in bringing New Zealand into line with other countries and states. New South Wales in Australia has internet voting as has Canada, France, Estonia and Switzerland.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Ron Smith: Fukushima: 'We all die!

The following quotation is taken from Jim Mora’s four o’clock panel discussion on Radio New Zealand, 9 May, this year:  “Fukushima is threatening life on this planet …. Worst case scenario (Jim did ask!) … we all die!”.  The speaker was Peter Elliot, who was described in his panel introduction as an ‘entertainment professional’, but whether he intended his comments as ‘entertainment’, or whether they were recognised as such by Radio New Zealand listeners, may be doubted. 

What also should come up for discussion is the place of this sort of infantile observation on what is claimed to be public-service radio, and the obligation that broadcasters, like Jim Mora, have to ensure some standards, with regard to the quality of the information put out and, of course, some balance, in the public debate on important and contentious issues.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Mike Butler: The Oyang 75 and fisheries pillage

Five of the crew of the South Korean charter fishing vessel Oyang 75 were found guilty of fishing offences last week and the Ministry for Primary Industry has seized another Oyang ship, the Oyang 77 berthed at Lyttelton, and charged its captain and factory manager with illegal dumping and misreporting the vessel's catch. (1) How are these South Korean ships connected to the New Zealand fishing industry?

Southern Storm Fishing Ltd chartered the Oyang 75 and the Oyang 70 that sank in 2010 off Otago with the deaths of six crew members. The five Oyang 75 crew members were convicted for and face fines of up to $250,000 after throwing 405 tonnes of low-value fish, still worth as much as $1.4-million, overboard and not reporting it.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Matt Ridley: Technology leads people to live more lightly on the land

Part of the preamble to Agenda 21, the action plan that came out of the Rio Earth Summit of 1992, reads: "We are confronted with a perpetuation of disparities between and within nations, a worsening of poverty, hunger, ill health and illiteracy, and the continuing deterioration of the ecosystems on which we depend for our well-being."

In the 20 years since, something embarrassing has happened: a sharp decrease in poverty, hunger, ill health and illiteracy and a marked reduction in these global disparities. The conference that begins next week in Rio de Janeiro, on the 20th anniversary of the first Earth Summit, will nonetheless remain resolutely pessimistic about the planet's ecosystems and their capacity to support human beings indefinitely if economic growth continues. The reasoning has changed over time, however.

Tim Ball: Radical Environmentalism Damages Economies and Lives

Going green has failed everywhere. It’s a major factor in European economic collapse as energy costs soar. Stronger economies of the United States and Canada absorbed impacts better but damage is extensive and has been papered over by government spending. Much of the economic decline is due to the activities of environmentalists. They’ve used taxpayer money for a propaganda war that has destroyed the livelihoods and lives of those taxpayers. Citizens are being bullied, defined as the use of “superior strength or influence to intimidate someone, typically to force him or her to do what one wants.” The bullied are unable to fight back. Letter’s to the editor about a front page item, even if published, are obscure in the letters section.

Bullying is not new and takes many forms. Over the last thirty years small groups and individual environmentalists have bullied from the moral pulpit of environmentalism. With false sermons and threats of damnation, they’ve scared people into believing and acting on falsehoods.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Matt Ridley: How Facebook captured capitalist "Kumbaya"

Human beings love sharing. We swap, collaborate, care, support, donate, volunteer and generally work for each other. We tend to admire sharing when it's done for free but frown upon it-or consider it a necessary evil-when it's done for profit. Some think that online, we're at the dawn of a golden age of free sharing, the wiki world, in which commerce will be replaced by mass communal sharing-what the futurist John Perry Barlow called "dot communism."

Certainly, in recent years we all rushed to put our reviews on Amazon, our travel experiences on TripAdvisor, our photographs on Flickr, and our innermost secrets on Facebook without expecting to profit from doing so.

Karl du Fresne: We're just too darned nice

The trouble with New Zealanders, I’ve decided, is that we’re just too darned nice. We’re decent and anxious to do the right thing. Our sense of fairness, respect for human rights and lack of corruption are recognised worldwide, which explains why New Zealand is often invited to play a bigger role in international affairs than our size justifies.  
But at home, these admirable qualities are a crippling liability. Why? Because whenever anyone proposes a course of action that threatens to disadvantage someone or strip them of some privilege, we wring our hands in anguish and say it can’t possibly be allowed. Someone, or something, might suffer.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Mike Butler: Same-sex parenting bad for kids

Is same-sex parenting bad for kids, and, if so, how? Sociologist Mark Regnerus posed the question: “How different are the adult children of parents who have same-sex relationships?” for new Social Science Journal study. Regnerus screened 15,088 people in the United States to find 175 who had been raised for some of their childhood by a mother who was in a lesbian relationship, and 73 who had been raised for some of their childhood by a father in a gay relationship.

Regnerus found that only two of the 175 subjects who reported having a mother in a same-sex relationship spent their whole childhood with the couple, and no children studied spent their entire childhood with two homosexual males. Of that, 57 percent of children spent more than four months with lesbian parents, but only 23 percent spent more than three years.

Mike Butler: Tribes clash over settlement spoils

Tribes clashing over settlement spoils seemed inevitable. One such clash between the Port Nicholson Block Settlement Trust and Ngati Toa over Wellington commercial properties played out last week before the Waitangi Tribunal. The row involves a last-minute land swap done by the Office of Treaty Settlements - taking the Wellington central police station from the trust in exchange for land in Greta Point and Kelburn so they could offer the police station to Ngati Toa.

Inclusion of the police station in the Ngati Toa deal, along with the Police College and surplus Kenepuru Hospital land, was announced on February 12, 2009. Ngati Toa had expressed concern in 2008 that the Port Nicholson trust was getting all the best Wellington land, the tribunal was told.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Benjamin Herscovitch: An insider's view of Australia's Asian embrace

Sam Roggeveen, editor of the Lowy Institute’s blog The Interpreter, recently suggested that coming to grips with the Asian Century may represent a ‘great national project’ for Australia. Embracing Asia ‘goes to the core of our national identity’ and cannot be done without political leadership, he added.

The Asian Century is not a pithy turn of phrase. It points to one of the most important geo-strategic shifts in world history. After approximately 500 years of European and American pre-eminence, power is rapidly moving back to Asian capitals and centres of commerce. As profound as the changes heralded by the dawn of the Asian Century might be, it does not require a great nation-building response from Australia. We are already deep in an Asian embrace.

Gary Judd: Intrusive Governments Undermine Democracy


The intrusion of government into areas where it should not be ― does it herald or risk the disintegration of democracy?

We hear endless discussion concerning what should be the political and economic responses to the problems in Europe. But suggested solutions are simply palliatives which at best will have short term effects.

We also hear discussion about the causes of the problems: governments living beyond their means and debt funding their voracious demands ― but the underlying cause, which is not heard, is the state intruding into areas where it should not be. The only solution which is not just palliative and short term is for the state’s functions to be limited so governments are confined to their proper role.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Mike Butler: Sharples trade trip raises questions

The headline said “Sharples brokers deals in China for Maori” but the story told of a possible wine distribution deal and hope for a possible future deal with the China Development Bank. The curious aspect of the trade delegation that Maori Affairs Minister Pita Sharples reported on to 3 News was that it was a Maori-only affair.

Maori groups with investments in forestry, including CNI Investments, Federation of Maori Authorities, Poutama Trust and the Maori Trustee, met executives from China Forest Group. Representatives of Aotearoa Fisheries, Ngai Tahu Fisheries and Ngati Kahungunu were also part of the trade mission.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Mike Butler: Volcanic cones, islands, harbours

A treaty deal for 11 volcanic cones in Auckland was signed on June 7, 2012, but what does it all mean? According to the Tamaki Makaurau Collective Deed of Settlement summary, the deal provides redress for the shared interests of the collective in volcanic cones, islands, and lands within Auckland. It does not settle any historical claims, which will be made with separate tribes.

Thirteen part-Maori groups are involved. Names of these entities are Ngai Tai ki Tamaki, Ngati Maru. Ngati Paoa, Ngati Tamaoho, Ngati Tamatera, Ngati Te Ata, Ngati Whanaunga, Ngati Whatua o Kaipara, Ngati Whatua Orakei, Te Akitai Waiohua, Te Kawerau a Maki, Te Patukirikiri, and Te Runanga o Ngati Whatua.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Richard Epstein: Higher Education for All?

It is, however, a mistake to assume that long-term growth depends solely on these short-term improvements. Over the long haul, it is equally critical to develop the human capital of the next generation that will allow young people to enter technological and professional fields that depend more on brain and less on brawn. Unfortunately, high returns from human capital first require large investments in human capital—hence, the thorny question of how best to finance higher education.

Mike Butler: Tide turning for same-sex couples?

Fair Go presenter Alison Mau put her case for same-sex marriage, on TV ONE’s Close Up on Wednesday, by claiming that "there's a tide of feeling globally about this issue”. As a woman in a same-sex relationship wants to get married, Mau said “it's the fact that I could get married 15 years ago when I married for the first time...and suddenly I can't marry who I want to marry now. And that seems odd and silly and outdated."

Is there an actual tide of feeling, or is it that the tide of feeling involves a few luminaries (United States President Barack Obama, New Zealand Prime Minister John Key, and now Mau) supporting same-sex marriage for political or other reasons?

Friday, June 8, 2012

Karl du Fresne: Confessions of a Luddite

I happily admit to being a Luddite. Technology often baffles and infuriates me. I assume this is one of those left brain/right brain things. The people who create computers and write the incomprehensible instructions that appear on my screen obviously think in a fundamentally different way from me. As exasperating as this is, I realise I must learn to live with it. I have come to the view that the people who transcribed the Gospels got one vital letter wrong. It is the geek who will inherit the earth. 
But I also willingly confess to sometimes being proved wrong. Back in the 1990s, I was deeply suspicious – contemptuous, even – of the Internet, which was then making its presence felt. Yet I’ve become increasingly dependent on the Net and these days couldn’t function without it. It enables me to live in a quiet provincial town, far from where the action is, yet still make a modest living as a journalist.

Mike Butler: Dried heads were not sacred

Glad to see that historian Paul Moon is pricking the balloon of sanctimony that surrounds the repatriation of preserved Maori heads, known as “toi moko”. ONE News reported that Moon “uncovered new evidence” which shows the trade in preserved Maori heads was little more than a profitable industry for 18th and 19th century Maori. "One captain for example pointed out he could order a head on demand, turn up at a community, they would find someone, kill a person ... and sell it to them," Moon said.

Moon would have had to claim new evidence to get historically challenged mainstream media reporters to show any interest in the story. Anybody familiar with New Zealand’s brief history would know that preserved Maori heads quickly became a valuable item of trade as 19th century European ethnographers revelled in the discovery of the real live Stone Age Maori culture, and were keen to acquire specimens.

Marc Alexander: A bureaucratic solution is often worse than the problem it attempted to fix

While the jaw-droppingly inept back-down on class sizes is a humiliating defeat for the Education Minister, for the government it is all the more embarrassing for two reasons. First, coming as close as it did just a short week from the announcement of the policy in the budget, the fanfare of the zero budget has dimmed abruptly – tripped over by its own recklessness and providing evidence of the zero-ness of its architects. It’s extraordinary that the cabinet would sign off on it in the first place. Not to have expected the public backlash being as deep as it was shows just how out of touch this government has become. Given that John Key defended sending his own kids to private schools because they “have smaller classes...” (May 2005), it beggars belief that he would think other parents would not share the same concerns. The spin that class sizes had little to do with student success was not credibly believed by anyone other than a handful of pencil pushers in the ministry and obviously, the restricted intelligences convening around the cabinet table.

The second reason the back-track was so humbling was the sheer audaciousness with which Hekia Parata was forced to defend the policy. Something echoed by a currently overseas Key enjoying the hospitality of her Majesty’s jubilee celebrations. The U-turn was obviously a political decision with one eye on the polls, but what galls is that in announcing the reversal, Hekia Parata never once said she was ‘wrong”.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Mike Butler: Sir Michael's woeful record

Michael Cullen, the former Labour deputy prime minister known for slinging the phrase “rich prick” around parliament, is now a “sir”. The fact that the New Zealand Herald editorialises that Cullen “richly deserves a gong” seems confirmation that at least one editorial writer at “Granny Herald” does indeed live in some sort of parallel universe.

The editorial describes Sir Michael as a worthy recipient, because “he presided over a generally healthy and resilient economy”, he recognised “the need to save for the inevitable rainy day ahead”, and “served the country particularly well as the Minister for Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations”.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Mike Butler: Whanau Ora how bizarre

Whanu Ora, promoted as a one-stop welfare shop for part-Maori families, has never been far from news headlines, mainly courtesy of New Zealand First leader Winston Peters. This week’s latest unwelcome publicity concerned a $60,000 grant to a rugby club that Peters called just another example of “bro-ocracy”.

Peters said the $60,000 grant was to the Rahui Rugby and Sports Club, based in Otaki "to research the vaguely-termed 'whanau connectedness' and 'resilience' in the community." He said that “in reality this is just another example of 'bro-ocracy' where taxpayers' cash is divided up amongst the bros for nonsensical purposes."

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Matthew Hooton: John Key’s cunning super plan?

Superannuation wouldn’t be John Key’s first broken promise. In 2008, the then opposition leader made solemn promises of three rounds of personal tax cuts, in 2009, 2010 and 2011.  He made no mention of increasing GST and said a worker on the average wage would be $47 a week better off.  The cost would be $1.3 billion in 2009/10, $1.8 billion in 2010/11 and $2.3 billion in 2011/12.

Upon election, Mr Key kept his promise, legislating for all three tax cuts, with the first effective from April 1, 2009.  By then, however, the fiscal truth was clear.  On usually government-aligned blogs, criticism emerged about the fiscally responsibility of two further rounds.