Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Richard Epstein: Richard Posner Gets It Wrong


President Barack Obama has encountered a torrent of opposition for his use of what the
Wall Street Journal’s Kimberly Strassel shrewdly described as Four Little Words: “You didn’t build that.” The President used these words to show that private success rests on public infrastructure. But in so doing, he slighted the importance of private initiative and innovation. The pushback has been enormous.

Right now, the patent system is also under major attack from a large number of scholars and judges who think that the way to industrial progress lies through an expanded public domain.

Karl du Fresne: Union lobbyists good, business lobbyists bad


In Orwell’s Animal Farm, it was “four legs good, two legs bad”. In the New Zealand Labour Party, some of whose MPs seem capable of Orwellian reasoning, it’s union lobbyists good, corporate lobbyists bad.

Only a week after Green MP Holly Walker’s Lobbying Disclosure Bill passed its first reading in Parliament, Labour has had an attack of the collywobbles.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Michael Coote: Treaty of Waitangi cargo cult


Like his predecessor in office Helen Clark, prime minister John Key is hoist with his own petard by sweeping Maori tribal claims to Crown assets. Ms Clark, it will be remembered, tried to face down Maori tribal claims to ownership of the foreshore and seabed. Her Labour-led  government passed the Foreshore and Seabed Act 2004 in order to reassert Crown ownership of our territorial waters and all below out to the twelve nautical mile limit. Her government’s legislation was its response to a Court of Appeal ruling of June 2003.

This ruling held that the Maori Land Court had jurisdiction to decide on Maori customary land title to the foreshore and seabed of the Marlborough Sounds, extending to the limits of New Zealand's territorial sea, under the Te Ture Whenua Maori Act 1993.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Richard Epstein: Will Banning Guns Prevent Another Aurora?


Once more, America gropes for a magic bullet.

The macabre tragedy in Aurora, Colorado, which left at least 12 people dead and 58 seriously wounded, is a grim reminder of the helpless position in which innocent people can find themselves at the hands of a maniac. No fictional film can top the tale of James Holmes, a former graduate student in neuroscience, who was decked out in “ballistic” regalia as he entered the Century 16 movie theater shortly after midnight during a showing of “The Dark Knight Rises.” Armed with assault weapons and tear or smoke gas bombs, he first immobilized and then shot his victims without reason or remorse. To top matters off, he then booby-trapped his apartment in an apparent effort to kill or maim the police officers that were likely to search it.

Mike Butler: Compo for treaty breaches by Maori


All is not as it seems in the grievance-redress world, because while Maori Party co-leader Tariana Turia blubbered her way through her speech to Parliament during the past week, three of the four bills being rushed through were awarding compensation to tribes who had breached the Treaty of Waitangi.

Breached the treaty, you may ask, we have never heard of Maori breaching the treaty? If the treaty is a solemn agreement between several signatories, if some parties to the agreement take up arms against the others, surely that would constitute a breach of the treaty? That is exactly what some members of Gisborne tribes Ngai Tamanuhiri and Rongowhakaata, and Bay of Plenty tribe Ngati Makino did about 150 years ago.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Ron Smith: Sustainability and the role of the university

It appears from my local paper that, along with Unitech, the University of Waikato has formally committed itself to the United Nations Higher Education Sustainability Initiative, which was part of the much-reported June, Rio + 20, process.  This is to be regretted.  The decision appears to have been taken without much consultation, or any reflection on what the implications might be for teaching and learning and for the role of the university in society.  It is more than a mere vacuous declaration of virtue.  It is yet another assault on the whole notion of the university as a centre for critical thought, and as a source of contestable advice on public issues.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Elizabeth Rata: New Zealand Constitution - why iwi have got it wrong

*The NZCPR WEEKLY newsletter is delivered free each week - register here. This week's Guest Commentary extract:

There is deep disquiet throughout the country about iwi claims for water rights. However by focussing on the resource itself; previously the foreshore and seabed, this time water, next time airwaves, geothermal energy, and so on, we are in danger of overlooking the source of the issue, of overlooking why such claims can be made in the first place. To find the fundamental flaw in the tribes’ case for the ownership of  public resources such as water we need look not only at what is to be owned but at who is claiming ownership. The essence of the tribal claim is that iwi represent a separate ‘public’ – the Maori people - and are therefore entitled to own the resources of that ‘public... Read More

Muriel Newman: Are we one or two?

*The NZCPR WEEKLY newsletter is delivered free each week - register here. This week's extract:   

Masquerading as servants of their people, an elite group of tribal leaders have persuaded governments to give them public riches that they do not deserve. Today they are claiming the ownership of New Zealand’s water. Last year they were given the right to make secret deals for the ownership of our mineral-rich foreshore and seabed. Before that, the Clark Government gave them a slice of the electromagnetic spectrum – hardly something that tribal leaders could claim they “owned” at the time of the signing of the Treaty... Read More

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Lindsay Mitchell: Welfare reform and drugs


Some people on the dole fail drug-tests and subsequently miss out on a job. So they stay on welfare. Is that OK?  The current government doesn't think so. That's why new legislation proposes sanctions - a reduction in benefit - when it happens. The legislation does not propose drug-testing all beneficiaries as a condition of eligibility for ongoing support. That's jungle drum stuff.

There's  another problem with benefits and substance abuse though. That's what to do about the 6,000 plus addicts on sickness and invalid benefits. The Minister is talking about compulsory rehab as a condition of support. Typically  this has been judged punitive by some, including health professionals. Apparently this proposal is manipulating the benefit system to control people's behaviour and shouldn't be entertained.

Mike Butler: Her Honour and te reo

An initiative in which court sessions will open and close with a few words in Maori has sparked admiration and contempt. From Monday, the start of Maori Language Week, court registrars and attendants will open, adjourn and close sittings at the district, family and youth courts in both languages.

The phrases to be used are for the opening: “Turituri mo Tona Honore, te Kaiwhakawa, Taki tu - Silence for His/Her Honour the Judge. All stand. Kua tuwhera te Kooti a-Rohe - The District Court is now open.” For an adjournment or conclusion of a session: “Turituri. Taki tu. Kua hiki te Kooti - Silence. All stand. The court is adjourned. Kua haere ano te Kooti - The court is resumed.”

Richard Epstein: How Unions Violate Free Speech


Money is what drives all major election campaigns. In the run up to the 2012 presidential election, sharp knives have already been drawn on the issue of corporate and union contributions. In addressing this issue, virtually all roads lead back to the much-contested Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which made it unconstitutional for the federal government to restrict any “electioneering communication” to the public by a corporation or a union within 30 days of a primary or general election.

Gerry Eckhoff: Maori Claim to Water


The claim by some Maori for ownership of freshwater cannot stand – regardless of any Waitangi tribunal ruling in their favour. Maori especially understand the principle of communal ownership and that nobody owns an un-alienated public resource that is shared “in common”. Even feral pigs or deer on private or public land are not “owned” until the hunter actually bags the animal. Ownership then applies to the resource (pig/deer/water) but not unless or until the point of “capture”.

Water is a prime example of an un-owned, uncontrolled public asset, held “in common” until the point of “capture” whether by a dam, diversion race, water pipe or some other device that denotes possession.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Mike Butler: Water rights argument flimsy

Prime Minister John Key may seem to be talking tough when he said that the outcome of the Waitangi Tribunal hearing into the New Zealand Maori Council’s claim regarding Maori rights to fresh water would not be binding on the government, and that no one owns water. However, based on Key’s past actions, you better be prepared for the likelihood that tribal corporations will be given shareholdings in power generators. It is worthwhile to look at some of the assumptions and arguments that could compel otherwise sensible political leaders to want to give tribal groups a percentage of resources. Public law specialist Mai Chen, Maori law specialist Joshua Hitchcock, and commercial lawyer Stephen Franks, have made assertions on the issues, which are reproduced here, with comment.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Gerry Eckhoff: Why NZ will never become high tech


The reason why NZ is unlikely to become a high tech nation became very clear to me after having the phone and broad band disconnected by Telecom. It appears we aren’t even allowed to communicate with ourselves (NZers) without first talking to something that sounds like a contracted Afghani Camel Duffing Call Centre from the other side of the world or if they are too busy – to the Philippines or Mumbai (some where in India). 

It all started with some forward thinking. 

Lindsay Perigo: Eco-Fascism in NZ—Beginning of the End?


If the Green Party calls them "a major assault on the [Resource Management] Act and on sustainable development" then, sight unseen, I'm for them.

The advisory group set up by the government after the Canterbury earthquakes to examine quake-related issues relevant to the Act has apparently exceeded its brief in a most edifying way. It has proposed a significant rewrite of this singularly fascist legislation, under which property owners have been viciously persecuted and prosecuted for some 20 years now. It has recommended the removal of the mandate to local bodies to protect coastal areas, wetlands, lakes and rivers, and indigenous flora and fauna.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Ron Smith: Turning the corner and getting into the right harbour

A wave of national outrage and general incomprehension followed the apparent denial of entry of HMNZS Te Kaha (and the tanker Endeavour) into Pearl Harbour after its participation in this year’s Rimpac naval exercise in the waters around Hawaii.  After all our efforts over the years to improve relations with the United States (including the recent signing of the Washington Declaration), we were ‘snubbed’ and sent round the corner to a commercial harbour.  This may have seemed petty but we really do need to remember how all this began and what the law still is regarding visits to our ports by US ships.  If an American naval ship turned up here, are we sure it would not be subjected to protest (which certainly didn’t happen to our ships), or even turned away (and not simply to a harbour next door)?

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Mike Butler: University costs and benefits

Universities are advertising and soon year 13 pupils will attend open days as they ponder their big step to tertiary education. But do those pupils and their parents have enough information to make an informed choice on where or whether to go?

Universities heavily promote their benefits because bums on seats bring funding. Secondary schools like having numerous pupils going on to higher education because this enhances their status as a quality education provider. Teachers believe in the value of education so push as many pupils as they can towards tertiary.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Ron Smith: Hard questions about nuclear weapons


The New Zealand Red Cross is running an essay competition for tertiary students.  The topic is, “Why do we need an international treaty to ban nuclear weapons?”  First prize: $1,000.  That’s good!  What isn’t good is that the question is completely closed.  (‘We need a treaty to ban nuclear weapons.  Tell me why in two thousand words’.  The Red Cross website is explicit on the matter.  The intention is, they say, “to reignite the debate for a ban on the use of nuclear weapons”.).

The assumption is that such a treaty is desirable and practicable.  I wonder how entrants who cast plausible doubt on either of these propositions get on?   Our universities are full enough of closed questions.  It does no service to higher education to add another one and especially on so fraught and difficult a question as that of the future of nuclear weapons and its essential relationship to global security. 

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Karl du Fresne: Greens should be careful what they wish for

I am not a supporter of the Greens, but part of me longs for the day when they find themselves in government.

They are enjoying a dream ride right now, confidently sounding off on every issue from mineral exploration to state asset sales and teacher-pupil ratios. They are well organised, adroit at using a sympathetic media and blessed with a front line of fresh, articulate MPs who combine earnest idealism with sharp political instincts.

But the Greens have never really been tested in combat. They have never had to balance their worthy ideals against the political realities of being in government. That’s when the pressure goes on and principles get compromised. Pragmatists and purists find themselves at odds and cracks start to appear.

Lindsay Mitchell: Benefits - blackmail money extracted under threat?


The NZ Herald editorialises today about drugs and beneficiaries:

"...using the benefits system as a means of forcing people off drugs and getting their lives back in order has never been considered before."

Let's back up a bit here. According to the 1965 NZ Yearbook;

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Mike Butler: Is Ngati Ranginui deal justified?


About 200 people turned up at a forum in Tauranga on Monday night, to have misconceptions about local tribe Ngati Ranginui’s $38-million settlement dispelled. That such a public meeting was deemed necessary implies a level of opposition to the deal that is yet to be ratified by the tribe. Usually, treaty settlements are agreed upon in private and the signed agreement is legally binding requiring legislation to release the money. How can this settlement be justified?

In a press release, Treaty Negotiations Minister Chris Finlayson said the settlement, that was signed on June 23 at Te Ranga, near Tauranga, provides redress recognising that “Ngati Ranginui and other Tauranga iwi have suffered some of the worst grievances in New Zealand’s history including the loss of life and the raupatu of land”. The Office of Treaty Settlements summary skirts the issues and the Waitangi Tribunal’s Report on the Tauranga Confiscation Claims offers a split decision.