Sunday, February 26, 2012

Mike Butler: Sir Douglas' role questioned

Bitter investors want convicted former Lombard director Sir Douglas Graham, a National Party man, stripped of his knighthood while Labour leader David Shearer argues that since the honour was for treaty settlements, it should remain untouched. Therefore, what was the beleaguered knight’s role in treaty work?

Sir Douglas was convicted, on February 24, along with former-Justice Minister Bill Jeffries (Labour) and two other men, of making false statements to investors in his capacity as a director of Lombard finance. He faces up to five years imprisonment and a fine of $300,000.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Karl du Fresne: Maori objections cancel exhibition

There are probably several good reasons why Lower Hutt’s Dowse Art Museum shouldn’t host an exhibition by a Mexican artist in which bubbles, partly made from water previously used to wash dead bodies, are blown from the ceiling into a silent room.

The first and most obvious is that it isn’t art, at least as most people understand the term. The second is that it’s grotesque and ghoulish. But as a believer in freedom of expression, I’m obliged to support the Dowse’s right to stage pointless exhibitions that are likely to appeal only to people wearing black clothing and funny-looking spectacles.

Owen McShane: Who do we Think we Are?

James Belich’s remarkable book “Replenishing the Earth: The Settler Revolution and the Rise of the Anglo World” (2009) certainly challenged the conventional version of the early settlement of New Zealand. We had grown used to being labeled “colonizers” extending the powers and reach of the British Imperial Empire.

But Belich declared New Zealand was nobody’s “colony” but was settled by people determined to create a new world – a world of their own design and choosing. My father’s Irish forebears settled here in the late 1830s. My mother’s Welsh forebears arrived in the early 1900s. Both my parents were atheists and Fabian Socialists. I never heard either of them suggest their families were here to promote the interests of the Brittish Imperial Empire.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Frank Newman: Regulatory controls for local councils

This week Greece was given a 130 billion Euro lifeline by the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund. The main purpose of the bailout was to retain intact the membership of the European Community, but few believe it will save the Greece in the long-run. Most predict a third bail out in a couple of year’s time.

The day the European talks were concluded, talks began in Whangarei to “merge” the tiny Kaipara District Council (KDC) with the Whangarei District Council (WDC). I mention this because there are some pretty interesting parallels between Greece and Kaipara. Both are heavily and hopelessly indebted, and both are looking to others to bail them out of problems of their own making.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Joanna Moss: How A Financial Crisis Might Turn Into Much Needed Reforms

The financial blow-out in the Family Court could be a blessing in disguise if the crisis is put to good use in terms of understanding the wider system and bringing in much needed reform. The Family Court is the court that most New Zealanders have contact with either directly or indirectly. It plays an important role in defining what courts are like and how they operate and also in upholding the rule of law. For these two reasons alone we need it to work well let alone considerations of the children and the family as the building block of society.

But let’s take a step back and look into why this crisis happened before we can look at the much needed reforms. Previous Minister of Justice Simon Power ordered the review when it became obvious that the costs had gone up 63% over the period 2004/2010 and the number of cases had remained roughly static. The figures showed clearly that cases were taking longer to resolve and that the Care of Children Act was the chief culprit.

Mike Butler: Holmes column firestorm burns

I have visited Waitangi Day on several occasions – never a Waitangi Day. I visited the treaty house since it is public property but not the marae since it is private. The people on the marae surely can carry on any way they please, since it is private property. If they wish to argue politics and abuse government policy, they are not alone. The problem occurs when vehement racial abuse is recorded by television news and beamed into households throughout New Zealand. Viewers can either agree with what they see, ignore it as having nothing to do with them, or get angry.

It seems that after years of ignoring it, Paul Holmes got angry and exercised his constitutional right of freedom of speech and poured his heart out in the NZ Herald on Saturday, February 11. This is what he wrote:
Waitangi Day produced its usual hatred, rudeness, and violence against a clearly elected Prime Minister from a group of hateful, hate-fuelled weirdos who seem to exist in a perfect world of benefit provision. This enables them to blissfully continue to believe that New Zealand is the centre of the world, no one has to have a job and the Treaty is all that matters.

Mike Butler: Abolish race relations commissioner

A move to abolish the title of race relations commissioner, announced yesterday (February 18, 2012) comes after current Human Rights Commissioner Joris De Bres pushed local authorities to set up separate Maori constituencies. An amendment to the Human Rights Act introduced to Parliament late last year would abolish the title, although the duties would continue to be done by a human rights commissioner. (1)

De Bres complained that the change would reduce the visibility of the office and also reduce its independence. But if you think separate Maori council seats are a mistake, his constitutional foray into local government is evidence that less independence would constrain commissioners to actual race relations issues. This backgrounder shows the sort of administrative damage an activist commissioner can inflict.

Mike Butler: Spotlight on treaty business

Public law specialist Mai Chen asserts that more attention needs to be given to the lower profile treaty settlements, such as the six bills going through parliament now, because “the redress and the obligations they create, including the co-governance of resources, affect us all”. I couldn’t agree more, but while asserting my right to freedom of speech, aspects of her column published in the New Zealand Herald on Thursday need scrutiny.

Chen wrote that she advises Maori on treaty settlements, but also advises “plenty of non-Maori on the impact of treaty settlements on their businesses and daily lives.” This media-savy legal expert is a key part of Chen Palmer, the firm she co-founded in 1994, which financially benefits from the ever-widening legal ripples created by successive treaty settlements and partnership deals.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Mike Butler: What Turia believes

Maori Party co-leader Tariana Turia’s open letter, published in the New Zealand Herald on Waitangi Day, on Section 9 of the State-Owned Enterprises Act 1986, gives an insight into the mechanics of partnership politics. Section 9 says: "nothing in this law shall permit the Crown to act in a manner that is inconsistent with the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi."

How did Section 9 come into being? When Richard Prebble was Minister of State-Owned Enterprises in 1986, during the early days of the Fourth Labour Government, he wanted to sell state-owned enterprises. To quieten the dissent that started to affect the Labour’s relations with its Maori voting base, Prebble asked his colleague Geoffrey Palmer to insert, in the new State-Owned Enterprises Act, what was thought to be a pious yet meaningless piece of lip-service, quoted above.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Ron Smith: A New Falklands War?

There is presently a new ‘war of words’ between Argentina and the United Kingdom. Could it escalate into renewed conflict? All the components for a second round of the 1982 war seem to be in place. On the other hand, it would seem to be a high-risk strategy for Argentina, even if they might have more to gain in economic terms than was apparent on the previous occasion. Apart from the fishery resource, the Falklands EEZ now seems likely to produce oil in substantial quantities.

President Kirschener has a number of political problems to which a triumphant recovery of ‘Las Malvinas’ might seem a solution.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Steve Baron: Waitangi Day and the Growing New Zealand Underclass

In 1875, a year before Col. George Custer fought the battle of Little Bighorn in the USA and after a passage of 114 days on the ship Edwin Fox, my Great, Great Grandfather George Wilcock arrived in the wild, wild west of Wellington, New Zealand. He was one of the growing number of immigrants that flooded into the country under Premier Julius Vogel's immigration scheme, which offered wholly or partially paid assistance to get to New Zealand. He was typical of New Zealand's early settlers, fleeing from Britain's industrialisation and wanting a better way of life for his family—and no doubt for his future generations to come.

Maori and Pakeha didn't get off to the best of starts.

Steve Baron: Strengthening Our Democracy

Having an interest or passion for politics is rather peculiar in this day and age. It is not
uncommon at the first signs of a political discussion for the person standing in front of me
to have an immediate attack of ocular revulsion (eye rolling). I have been campaigning for binding referendums since 2003, but just recently I looked at some old newspaper clippings from 1985 and realised I was even talking about referendums way back then.

What has always concerned me is the real lack of checks and balances in our political system.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Lindsay Mitchell: The rich are getting poorer and the poor are getting richer

Reinforcing Simon Collins' recent series about income inequality, a NZ Herald editorial contains this statement:
The proportion of children in poverty - defined as households with less than 60 per cent of the median income to live on after paying housing costs - has risen from 16 per cent in 1990 to 26 per cent today.
The following table appears in the most recent Ministry of Social Development Household Incomes Survey:

Mike Butler: Rubbishing Holocaust claims

Nothing could be more appropriate than for the Jewish Council president to rubbish recycled claims that white colonisers had unleashed a holocaust on the Maori population.

Language lecturer Keri Opai told a Radio New Zealand panel discussion last Sunday (February 5) that Maori were suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder following the "holocaust" of colonisation. He added: “I know we might get in trouble for saying those words but it is absolutely true.”

Matt Ridley: The market as the antidote to capitalism

The anti-capitalists, now more than 50 days outside St Paul’s, have a point: capitalism is proving unfair. But I would like to try to persuade them that the reason is because it is not free-market enough. (Good luck, I hear you cry.) The market, when allowed to flourish, tears apart monopoly and generates freedom and fairness better than any other human institution. Today’s private sector, by contrast, is increasingly dominated by companies that are privileged by government through cosy contract, soft subsidy, convenient regulation and crony conversation.

That is why it is producing such unfair outcomes.

Martin Durkin: The Greens - A Warning from History

What are we to make of the morose nostalgia of the greens?  Why do today’s posh rebels yearn for the world as it was before capitalism?  What was it about the Middle Ages that appeals to them so much?

In his Deep Economy, green writer Bill McKibben demands ‘Peasant farms, not Cargill [modern commercial] farms.’  He grieves over the decline of ‘common pastures, forests and ponds’ in places like India, and is distressed by the private ownership of land, ‘We can hear the echo of the enclosures that fenced off the fields and forests of Britain two hundred years ago.’

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Frank Newman: Local councils to be reformed

The smoke signals are plain to see – there will be significant reform of local government in the near future. Those within central government are now openly expressing their concerns and frustrations with a poor performing local government sector.

This week the exchange between Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee and Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker reached soprano pitch. It seems the Minister is frustrated that the Council is too occupied with having its hand out for central government aid and doing too little to help itself. That exchange comes in a background of ratepayer protest against the council and calls for mid-term elections. All is not well in Christchurch civic circles, and change seems inevitable.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Richard Epstein: In Defense of Libertarianism

The surprising persistence of Ron Paul during the Republican presidential primary process has brought the libertarian theory that he champions into the spotlight. At one level, what Paul says about the tradition is surely correct. It does not take a bold imagination to think that the level of government intrusion in the lives and businesses of its citizens has moved to an unacceptable and unsustainable level. He is right to stress the corruption that large government brings to social life.
In today’s environment, individuals divert their energy from producing wealth for themselves, which would otherwise create greater opportunities for others, to securing the transfer of wealth from others, which in the end diminishes all the possibilities for growth created by human ingenuity and invention.

Mike Butler: Step-parents top baby killers

Why is the incidence of child homicide four times higher among Maori than among Pakeha? In his World of Science column in today’s Dominion Post, Bob Brockie pointed to research done by two Canadian scientists, Professor Martin Daly and his wife Professor Margot Wilson, who studied cases of thousands of children killed by their parents from mediaeval to modern times.

After testing for numerous factors that may affect the killings, such as poverty or wealth, family size, birth order, parents’ age, fathers’ personality etc, they found the best predictor of baby killing was having a step parent. This multiplied the risk factor by 50-100 times.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Mike Butler: More separatist flags flying

Wellington mayor Celia Wade-Brown is the latest naïve white politician to be duped by Maori sovereignty campaigners into flying the tino rangatiratanga flag on Waitangi Day this year. Announcing the decision to fly the flag from Wellington's Town Hall for the first time together with the New Zealand national flag, she said "Waitangi Day is all about the spirit of mutual respect and nationhood so we will fly the two flags together. This symbolises and enhances the relationship between the Crown and Maori."

Yes, the flag is a symbol, but the starry eyed Wellington mayor may not be aware that the group that promoted the separatist flag, Te Ata Tino Toa, says the flag symbolises the struggle for Maori self-determination: Spokesperson Tia Taurere said:
The Tino Rangatiratanga flag symbolises the long tradition of struggle and resistance by Maori against colonisation and the Crown sponsored theft of Maori land and resources. It is a symbol used by Maori who continue to resist the pressures of colonisation and cultural and economic genocide. Such a concept embraces the spiritual link Maori have with 'Papatuanuku' (Earthmother) and is a part of the international drive by indigenous peoples for self determination.

David Round: The Enemy of Nationhood

First published December 2009:
There was a poem which my mother had learnt off by heart as a girl and portions of which she could long remember and recite to us.  It was, I later discovered, Whittier's Barbara Frietchie, and it tells of a true episode in the American Civil War when Confederate forces, occupying a town in the north, decreed on pain of death that all Union flags in the town should be taken down. Heroic old Barbara refused, and
‘Shoot if you must this old grey head
But spare your country’s flag’ she said.
The officer was moved.
‘Who touches a hair of yon grey head
Dies like a dog! March on!’ he said.

A nation’s flag is a precious thing. It arises out of a long history; it grows with a people and tells their story. The New Zealand flag is no exception. On the blue of the Pacific Ocean shines the Southern Cross, the great guiding constellation of our skies, and in one corner the crosses of St George, St Andrew and St Patrick ~ England, Scotland and Ireland ~ tell of our British ancestors ~ the explorers and pioneers who found New Zealand a barbarous, albeit beautiful, wilderness of warring tribes, and created by their patient heroic labours the land of peace and comparative prosperity we have inherited.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Ron Smith: Of Springs and False Dawns

The so-called ‘Arab Spring’ has been in progress for about a year and it may be appropriate now to take stock of what was anticipated, or hoped for, and what we seem to have got. Of course, as Zhou Enlai famously once said of the effect of the French Revolution on western civilisation, it may be ‘too soon to tell’, but as far as the ‘Arab Spring’ is concerned, some things may already be evident.

Most obvious amongst these is that the analogy with the ‘Prague Spring’ is not appropriate and that western media interpretation of unfolding events in the Arab world, as similar to those that took place in Eastern Europe in 1989, may have been nothing more than wistful thinking. The Prague Spring, itself, was a 1968 attempt to throw-off the worst excesses of communism in Czechoslovakia, but it did presage a wider struggle for liberty that was dramatically and surprisingly successful, twenty-one years later.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Karl du Fresne: Memo to Bill English - perhaps you could start here

The Government insists that it’s trimming the flab from the public service, yet I keep seeing advertisements for pseudo-jobs such as “Chief Advisor, Maori Development” for the Ministry of Science and Innovation.

It was a wordy, long-winded ad but after reading it I had little idea what the job actually entailed. This is par for the course with executive positions these days, in the private as well as the public sector. The ad was written in impenetrable HR-speak, with liberal use of vague phrases such as “focused strategies and policies” and “building connections throughout New Zealand’s science and innovation systems”.