Sunday, December 16, 2012

Mike Butler: Picton tribe’s $11.7m queried

Gone are the days when New Zealanders of Maori ancestry could fax in a claim noting an historical grievance allegedly suffered and wait for the payment to arrive. One such claim has produced a settlement worth $11.7-million negotiated between the Crown and the Picton tribe, Te Atiawa Manawhenua Ki Te Tau Ihu. This deal prompted a series of questions from reader Doug Howard.

While such settlements are publicly notified by cursory press release, details can be difficult to dig out if you don’t know where to look. It is helpful for the public to know what the claim was.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Ron Smith: On Constitutions

The proposed constitution for Egypt contains a good deal of contentious material and it will be interesting to see how it fares in the referendum, scheduled for this weekend.  As readers of the New Zealand Centre for Political Research know, there are also constitutional projects afoot here in New Zealand.  There are interesting parallels between the two.

In the Egyptian case, and in the context of a ‘virtuous revolution which has unified all Egyptians’, there is an early affirmation of the object of the exercise.  This is to ‘build a modern democratic state’, in which, ‘Equality and equal opportunities are established for all citizens, men and women’.  But all is not as it seems.  As in Orwell’s celebrated story, some (animals) are more equal than others.  In this case the ‘more equal’ are specifically Islamic and masculine.  On the face of it, there is to be ‘no discrimination’ between men and women (this is in the Preamble); but what are we to make of Article 10, ‘The State shall ….enable the reconciliation between the duties of a women toward her family and her work’?  This seems clearly to envisage a restricted status for women, of a kind that, lamentably, is to be found around much of the Islamic world.  More generally, there is limited constitutional protection (and much threat) for minorities such as the Coptic Christians, and any who desire to live in a modern, secular state.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Reuben Chapple: Eyes Wide Open

The Waitangi Tribunal’s recent finding that Northland’s Ngapuhi tribes did not cede sovereignty to the Crown by signing the Treaty of Waitangi is arrant nonsense that deserves to be mercilessly deconstructed.

It appears the Tribunal uncritically accepted Ngapuhi’s assertion their ancestors believed Governor Hobson’s authority would apply only to white settlers, and that Maori would continue to be ruled, tribal-style, by their chiefs.

These claims are not borne out by the historical record. As outgoing Governor-General, Lord Bledisloe, observed in his 1922 farewell address: "In the Kingdom of the Blind, the one-eyed man is King, and he that does not know his own history is at the mercy of every lying windbag."

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Bruce Moon: Ngapuhi did cede sovereignty

A claim that Far North tribe Ngapuhi never ceded either sovereignty or government is contradicted by the fact that a number of the 27 Ngapuhi chiefs attending the greatest assembly of chiefs ever – the 1860 Kohimarama Conference – confirmed the sovereignty of the Queen.

A report commissioned by grievance specialist Titewhai Harawira and released last month claimed that that Ngapuhi did not sign away their sovereignty to the British Crown and did not cede governance to the Crown either. The report says chiefs wanted the Crown to provide a governor who would take charge of its unruly British subjects living here.

Mike Butler: Mokomoko, murder, and money

The saying "give someone an inch (and they'll take a mile)"used to mean that if you allow some people a small amount of freedom or power they will see you as weak and try to take a lot more. The Mokomoko (Restoration of Character, Mana, and Reputation) Bill that is currently winding its way through parliament shows why this saying is used.

The interesting thing about this bill is that the1992 pardon of Mokomoko, a Bay of Plenty chief executed for his role in the killing of a Lutheran minister, is now being used as evidence of a treaty breach and a basis for compensation.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Simon Cowan: Will taxes on the super-rich solve budget woes?

Governments around the world are being dragged, in some cases kicking and screaming, into doing something about their budget deficits. The difficulty is that the public will neither pay more tax nor countenance any cuts to entitlements and services. Hence, recent state budgets have been using euphemisms such as ‘efficiency dividends’ and ‘trimming the fat,’ while senior politicians rush to reassure electorates that public service job losses will not affect frontline services.

However, such cloak-and-dagger methods can take you only so far, especially if (like the United States) you’ve got a trillion-dollar hole to fill. Perhaps, the thinking goes, where dissembling fails envy might succeed. After all, everyone knows that the super-rich are rorting the tax system; all we need to do is raise their taxes so they pay ‘their fair share’ and everything will be OK, right?

Steve Baron: Fighting violence with violence

Some people smoke, others debauch themselves with alcohol, drugs and gambling; my indulgence is for cafés. I enjoy the chance to read the newspapers, to get that quick fix of caffeine and a chance to chat with all sorts of interesting people from time to time. The eternally effervescent girl with the dragon tattoo and cheeky smile always has something to say when I bump into her in the café. Something she said to me today, about a moment in her life she considered ‘not one of her finer moments’, got me thinking. We all have times like this when we make mistakes and do and say things we regret. 

Unfortunately Christmas is a time when stress levels often become elevated, dangerous situations arise and physical abuse eventuates. Oh of course he didn’t mean to do it and he promises never to do it again and after all it’s really out of character for him. Yes, its amazing how people can often justify almost anything—even murder. The abuse of women and children should never be brushed aside because these instances usually have a tendency to escalate. If a guy will hit you once, he will hit you again and it will probably be worse next time because he knows he got away with it last time.

Steve Baron: Income inequality & child poverty

I’ll be blunt and say straight up front, I’m a dirty, stinking, money loving capitalist. I’ve speculated in real estate, the stock market, even foreign currency and I've been lucky enough to do very well from it too. However, I’m also a capitalist that has a social conscience. I believe in justice, fairness and equal opportunity. That is why income inequality and child poverty concern me greatly.

I started hearing about income inequality a few years ago in the main stream media, after a book called 'The Spirit Level' was published. It was mainly left wing commentators that were banging on about it and my first thoughts were… "here we go again, rob from the rich to give to the poor, bloody socialists".

Monday, December 3, 2012

Barend Vlaardingerbroek: Ritual action and the religious freedom argument

It’s not very often that Jews and Muslims present a united front, but they did so in Germany recently when a court held that the circumcision of baby boys for reasons other than medical was illegal. It’s not very often that Muslims and Christians sing from the same song-sheet either, but they did so in their submissions to the Select Committee on the Marriage Amendment Bill, when both the Federation of Islamic Associations of NZ and various Christian groups presented submissions that in some instances would have looked like carbon copies. But we are more accustomed to hearing about Muslims getting in hot water in Western countries over such things as the female veil and forced marriages. And then there were the Sydney riots. Jews too occasionally find themselves falling foul of Western norms, such as the debate over shechita (ritual animal slaughter) in NZ not long ago.

A common defence is that of the freedom of religion. But freedom of religious expression is a qualified right, not an absolute right. It does not confer any right to break the laws of the country in which one lives. As with all rights, clear legal boundaries need to be put around religious freedom. And this is where the basic problem lies: which law is to define those boundaries?