Thursday, September 30, 2010

Frank Newman: Turkish dancing

It’s so bizarre it’s almost humorous. I am referring to the “we were doing a Turkish dance” defence used by a Hawera kebab shop owner against charges that he assaulted his wife. Fortunately the judge saved the judiciary from humiliation by rejecting the defence as "nonsense and a lie".

According to a media report appearing in the Taranaki Daily News the man claimed he and his wife were engaging in a Turkish dance known as Kolbasti. If he is to be believed, and if eye witness reports are correct, then Kolbasti involves kicking and beating ones dance partner.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Mike Butler: Hone and race

Is Hone Harawira a racist? A feature on him aired on the Sunday television programme last night gave him the opportunity to define racism, and by his definition he is not a racist.

The feature, titled “Home Truths”, was made as a follow-up to the Te Tai Tokerau MP’s outburst that he wouldn’t feel comfortable if one of his children came home with a Pakeha partner.

Michael Coote: Coastal Maori Tribes Big Winners Under New Bill

The National-led government is fortunate that the South Canterbury Finance payout and the Christchurch earthquake disaster happened when they did.

These events served to distract attention from the Marine and Coastal Area (Takutai Moana) Bill it introduced into Parliament on September 7.

The bill is intended to replace the Foreshore and Seabed Act 2004 and will open up the marine environment to privatization by coastal Maori tribes.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Owen McShane: Fourteen Tips for New Mayors

As we go into the local body elections many of our friends and colleagues are standing as candidates, or are working to assist those who are. These good people hope to make a difference.
 I wrote the following "Tips for Mayors and Councillors" just before the election of 2003, and repeated it for the election of 2007. I now find that sitting councillors are asking me to send it to them once again. They have found these tips were worth while. You might like to pass them on to anyone you know who might benefit from them.

You are a new Mayor, or a new Councillor. You want “to make a difference”.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Bryan Leyland: Earthquakes, snowfalls and road tunnels

Recent events in the South Island highlight what engineers can–and cannot–do.

My favorite definition of an engineer is "someone who can do for five bob was any fool can do for a quid”. Engineers strive to do the best job they can in the light of the knowledge available at the time without wasting huge amounts of money. As a result we have progressed from early steam engines with, perhaps, 5% efficiency to modern power stations at 60% efficiency. Bridges have got longer, stronger lighter and cheaper and so on. But advances in technology has always been punctuated by periodic failures. Detailed analyses of these failures has been a major factor in designing machines and structures that are stronger and safer. The process is continuous and, every now and then, there will be failures. Nevertheless, in the long run everyone will benefit from the lessons that have been learned. In engineering, as in most–or all–aspects of modern life, risk can be minimized but it cannot be eliminated.

Frank Newman: Open letter to the Prime Minister

23 September 2010
The Prime Minister

Dear John

You have on a number of occasions ruled out having Sir Roger Douglas as a member of a National led cabinet, the most recent being this morning on Radio New Zealand (RNZ).

You stated on RNZ that the reason for excluding Sir Roger was his “far right agenda” is at odds with the policies of the National Party .

You are of course free to choose who you include or exclude from your executive and I have no issue whatsoever with you exercising that choice.

Could you please advise if there are sufficient differences between Mr Hone Harawira’s political views and the policies of the National Party for you to make a similar statement ruling him out of any future National led cabinet over which you preside.

Yours faithfully
Frank Newman

[NOTE: The Prime Minister’s reply will be posted on this blog.]

Monday, September 20, 2010

Owen McShane: If I was going there, I wouldn't start from here.

Many people are hoping the creation of the Auckland Super City will launch a new and better
Auckland – more affordable, more liveable, and more efficient.

Unfortunately, such improvements are unlikely while so many are so misinformed about Auckland’s environment today. If we don’t know where we are we cannot properly plan where to go.

Allan Peachey: The race between education and catastrophe

I wrote last time about praising New Zealand’s great schools and fixing or closing its bad ones. That brings to mind that great Ronald Reagan statement ‘if you cannot make them see the light, make them feel the heat”. I think it has been well demonstrated that getting New Zealand schools to “see the light” just has not brought about the changes that are needed if every New Zealand child is to have an outstanding school to go to. I spent over 32 years in schools and now after five years in Parliament all I continue to see is tinkering around the edges so that real problems never get dealt with.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Karl du Fresne: ACT enters the terminal phase of self-destruction

Will ACT survive the next election? I don’t think anyone will be betting the house on it right now. The party seems determined to disembowel itself in full public view.

My own reaction to this is mixed. On one hand I’m disappointed, because I supported most ACT policies and admired many of its MPs, at least up until the point when the party suddenly jumped the rails by aligning itself with the Sensible Sentencing Trust.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Mike Butler: Unrepresentative democracy

Ninety one percent of respondents to a YahooXtra poll this weekend think that iwi should not have any customary title to beaches. The poll attracted 21,050 votes in two days, of which 19,211 were against granting customary title. It is interesting to see such overwhelming opposition when there has been little debate in the mainstream media over the National-led government’s purported solution to the foreshore and seabed issue.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Allan Peachey: The Scandal of School Failure

I did not have a lot of time for Al Gore, the former Vice President of the USA. It was a stroke of good fortune for the world that George Bush finally prevailed over him in 2000. However, Gore did say one thing that continues to resonate with me: “Scandals are front page news, while routine failure is ignored.” He could have been talking about the New Zealand schooling system. The media, particularly but not exclusively the Sunday print media, love the “teacher sleeps with pupil” stuff or for variation “pupil sleeps with teacher”. And whether the Teachers’ Council is stern enough, or severe enough, or quick enough, or public enough in dealing with such cases. I am not arguing that such matters are not important, of course they are. But they attract far more attention than what the routine failure of schooling attracts.

Owen McShane: No Access Ramps between Orewa and Warkworth

The proposed Puhoi to Wellsford Highway should greatly enhance the connectivity of the Auckland and Northland economies. We are learning that networks are now more important in establishing urban primacy than size alone. But the potential benefits of this new element in the roading network are seriously compromised by the decision to have no access or exit ramps between the Orewa roundabout and Warkworth. This is not an engineering decision but is based on the Auckland Regional Growth Strategy which has determined that there shall be no growth between these two access points and hence there is no need for ramps.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Roger Kerr: This Year's 2025 Taskforce Report an Important Stocktake

 Next month the 2025 Taskforce will be delivering its second report to the government. It is the most important taskforce reporting this year.

Achieving the goal of catching up with Australian income levels by 2025 would hugely benefit most New Zealanders and alleviate many social problems – stretched household budgets, the availability of high-paying jobs, housing affordability, resource constraints in health, education and environmental protection, and our ability to cope with an aging population.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Lindsay Mitchell: Sole parents - blighted by poverty and mental illness

The following graphs paint a clear picture of the deprivation associated with sole parenthood.

But first, the extent of sole parenthood, which grew from 10 percent of all families with dependent children in 1975 to 28 percent in 2006:

Sunday, September 5, 2010

David Round: Betrayed by National

I was arguing last week, you may recall, that the passage of National’s proposed foreshore and seabed legislation will mark the beginning of the end of our country. Towards the end of that column I made the point that the line we have been fed for the last twenty-five years, that after historic Treaty claims were settled we could all put the past behind us and get on with being New Zealanders, was a lie. Many of those claims, of course, were the repetition of earlier claims which had already been fully and finally settled at some past time, and clearly, also, despite these latest full and final settlements, the claims will be made again in future. But that aside, those claims and settlements were in fact but one stage in the continuing division of our country, a process of division in which National’s proposed foreshore and seabed legislation will mark a decisive and disastrous point. Let me remind you now of some of the other things that are going on, before I return to the foreshore and seabed.

Allan Peachey: Protecting Democracy through Education

Some weeks ago I wrote about the importance of science in the protection of democracy. That drew some nice comments in my direction and the ire of one economics teacher. Today I want to write about the importance of history in the protection of democracy, and no doubt draw praise from history teachers and the ire of a few more economics teachers! I should probably start with a declaration of personal interest. I am an historian by academic training and I have remained one by personal inclination for the nearly 40 years since I graduated. I remain an avid reader of anything historical. I always thought that was one of the great things about history – it can be the interest of a lifetime and stimulate a wide range of book reading. I sometimes say that when I retire from politics (and anyone with an eye on the Tamaki seat will have to wait a while longer!) I intend to spend my days watching the history channel on Sky. Some of the most pleasurable years of my teaching life were those spent teaching history.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Mike Butler: Booze culture

At the risk of being forever labeled a wowser I would like to make some observations on our booze culture. This blog was sparked by a TV One Closeup feature on the death of Kings College pupil James Webster, who sculled a bottle of vodka and was left to die by his friends and so-called responsible adults at the Grey Lynn Returned Services Club. While the item was very worthy and gut-gripping as all good television should be, the underlying assumption is that James’s death was a consequence of a teenage drinking problem. Is that so?

And why do teenagers drink? My mind drifted back to a Mission Concert about three years ago, the one where headline performer Eric Clapton spat the dummy when he saw a bottle of wine with his name on the label. Clapton is a recovering alcoholic and has spent tens of thousands of dollars towards the rehab of other recovering alcoholics, so I can understand why he was furious to see his name endorsing some fine Mission Estate wine.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Ron Smith: Bushehr and the Iranian Nuclear Weapons Programme

The international community continues to condemn Iran for nuclear activities that, in their context, can have no other purpose than the production of fissile material for the fabrication of nuclear weapons. However, there is an important distinction to be made between the proliferation significance of the Bushehr power reactor, that is about to come into operation, and virtually all the other nuclear activities that Iran has been engaged in for a number of years (see my columns on this site on September 6th and 19th of last year). To be sure, the processing of uranium ore, its conversion into uranium hexachloride, and subsequent enrichment could be claimed to be relevant to the manufacture of fuel rods for civilian purposes. The trouble with this justification is that Iran really only has one plant that could use these rods (Bushehr) and the fuel for this has already been provided by Russia, who also completed the building of the reactor. Indeed, the Russian contract under which this was done specifies that in addition to supplying fresh fuel, they will also take away the spent fuel, for storage, or reprocessing. Iran, therefore, needs to do nothing in the way of preparing fresh fuel itself and nothing in the way of ‘completing’ the nuclear fuel cycle by reprocessing.