Monday, December 30, 2013

Ron Smith: Nuclear tit for tat

It looks as if the recent announcement (26 December) by the head of the Iranian atomic energy authority, that Iran will shortly begin to manufacture a new, improved design of uranium enrichment centrifuge is intended as a tit for tat response to the American congressional move to enhance sanctions on Iran whilst the Geneva discussions are proceeding.  

It especially looks like this, since the Iranian announcement is based on a motion before the Iranian parliament, supported, apparently, by nearly half of its membership.  Be that as it may, it is certainly necessary to ask ourselves what this development means, especially since the Iranian parliamentary motion is also advocating an increase in the present target level of enrichment from 20% to 60%.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Barend Vlaardingerbroek: Marriage – What’s Love Got To Do With It?

What’s love got to do, got to do with it?
What’s love but a second-hand emotion?
... What’s love but a sweet old-fashioned notion? – Tina Turner 1993

In the aftermath of the Australian High Court ruling last week that same-sex marriage (SSM) law enacted by the ACT was invalid, all the usual arguments for and against SSM were trotted out by the opposing camps, and as usual were given plenty of airing by the media. Not that anything new was said as far as I could tell, but it gave us all the opportunity to reflect on the issue and our own positions on it. In the course of these musings, two things struck me.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Mike Butler: The UN and the new totalitarians

If you ever wondered about a link between climate change propaganda and the growing influence of the United Nations, Totalitaria by Ian Wishart links government surveillance, Agenda 21, the Earth Charter, national education standards, and church corruption with Satanism in high places.

Wishart is a New Zealand journalist, author and publisher, and the editor of Investigate magazine. He established his credentials as a leading investigative reporter when he uncovered the two key fraudulent transactions in the so-called Winebox affair of the early 1990s.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Frank Newman: Interest rates to hit homeowners and businesses

2014 is likely to be a tough year for debt burdened home owners and businesses. As expected, last week the Governor of the Reserve Bank left the Official Cash Rate (OCR) unchanged at 2.5%. Of greater interest was his commentary.
The Governor has for some time warned borrowers that interest rates will rise. Last week he was more specific. The first of the interest rate increases is likely to be announced on 13 March 2014, and rise 1% (100 points) in 2014 and by 2.25% over the next two and a quarter years (through to mid-2016).
That means a family with a $200,000 mortgage is likely to be paying about $40 a week more in interest this time next year, and $85 a week by June 2016. 

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Lindsay Mitchell: Paid Parental Leave extension unwarranted

The government is reportedly reconsidering its opposition to extending Paid Parental Leave from 14  to 26 weeks. This comes despite Treasury advice that there would be "minimal benefit from increasing the length of parental leave."

Last year Treasury analysed who was using paid parental leave, labour market outcomes, and child health outcomes. It found that, "...there is not a strong evidence-based argument to support extending the length of paid parent leave."

Treasury's report states, "...the majority of mothers return to work when the baby is six months old...". Marginal benefits to labour market participation and child health and well-being would therefore be small. Additionally, it notes, "...the most vulnerable children are likely born into families where parents are not eligible for paid parental leave...".

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Steve Baron: City Councilor Accountability

Part of obtaining a University Economics degree is to understand a concept called ‘Moral Hazard’. A moral hazard occurs when the actions of one party change to the detriment of another, after a financial transaction has taken place. Another aspect of moral hazard is the ‘Principal-Agent Problem’. This is where one party, called an Agent, acts on behalf of another party, called the Principal. These concepts highlight a dilemma—how to motivate an Agent to act in the best interests of the Principal, rather than in their own best interests.

It’s a dilemma we face throughout New Zealand when we Principals (Voters) attempt to get our Agents (Councillor’s) to turn up to Council meetings—something we expect of them, given we remunerate them accordingly, in the hope  our city will be managed in the most effective way possible. The problem is that when one or more of these Councillors don’t take full responsibility for the consequences of their actions (or inactions in this instance), this leaves other Councillors’ to take on more responsibility for the decisions that are made. It may also mean that there is less diverse thought and scrutinizing involved in the decision making process. It also means that voters feel ‘screwed’, to put it in colloquial terms.

Matt Ridley: China's growth comes not from dirigisme, but from low-level freedoms

I know very little about what was discussed inside the Third Plenum of the 18th Central Committee of the Chinese Communist party. The meeting was held in secret — although one of the subjects discussed was said to be greater government transparency. About all we know is that “unprecedented” economic and social reforms were discussed, including such things as rural property rights. But, to judge by a new wave of Mao worship, persecution of dissidents and reinforced censorship, political reform is less likely than economic.

In other words, the Chinese Communist Party is trying to continue pulling off the trick that has served it ever since Deng Xiaoping defeated the Gang of Four: more economic freedom combined with less political freedom. 

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Frank Newman: Incompetent Kaipara

Last week the Auditor General, Lyn Provost, tabled a report into a 20-month review of the Kaipara District Council’s (KDC) mismanagement of the Mangawhai community wastewater scheme. For an auditor, the language in the report is unusually forthright and clear. The only muddling comes when the Auditor General justifies the short comings of her own department, the government Audit Office. 
Ms Provost summarises her findings as follows:
 “I summarise it as a woeful saga. Overall, the inquiry found that:
·        KDC failed to attend to its fundamental legal and accountability obligations.
·        KDC effectively lost control of a major infrastructure project.
·        Some of the work done on behalf of the Auditor-General has fallen short of the    standards I expect.”

Mike Butler: Panel ignores nation’s pulse

While the Constitutional Advisory Panel claims its final report, released on Thursday, is simply taking the pulse of the nation, this separatist-dominated group pushes its view on the Maori seats, the Treaty of Waitangi, and appears to have renamed the nation "Aotearoa New Zealand".

Despite receiving a large number of submissions wanting the Maori seats to go, the panel recommends against their abolition, saying “it is inappropriate for the longstanding rights of a minority to be taken away simply because the minority is outnumbered”.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Steve Baron: Craig should be taken seriously

Politics is a dirty business and politicians are usually public enemy #1. Probably quite deservedly as well, given the long list of disreputable politicians with names like Donna Awatere Huata, Taito Philip Field and David Garrett heading the ‘Roll of Dishonour’.

One politician yet to be elected to Parliament and fast becoming the politician’s enemy #1 is Conservative Party Leader, Colin Craig. If you believe what the current crop of politicians have to say about Mr Craig you would expect to meet a crazy man, a religious zealot, a homophobe or even a skinny Kim Dotcom.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Matt Ridley: The Frackers

This is a review of a book on the people who made the shale gas revolution: Gregory Zuckerman's, The Frackers.

In the long tradition of serendipitous mistakes that led to great discoveries, we can now add a key moment in 1997. Nick Steinsberger, an engineer with Mitchell Energy, was supervising the hydraulic fracturing of a gas well near Fort Worth, Texas, when he noticed that the gel and chemicals in the “fracking fluid” were not mixing properly. So the stuff being pumped underground to crack the rock was too watery, not as gel-like as it should be.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Mike Butler: Bigger councils not always better

Hot on the success or otherwise of the creation of the Auckland Council, it appears the Local Government Commission is embarking on a cookie-cutter approach to solve real or imagined local authority under-performance by imposing merger schemes in the regions and in so doing conjuring up nominated Maori boards.

Hawke’s Bay is the most recent target of this initiative. On Tuesday, the Local Government Commission released a draft proposal to merge the region’s five local authorities – the Napier, Hastings, Wairoa, and Central Hawke’s Bay councils and the regional council -- into a single unitary Hawke’s Bay Council run by one mayor, nine councillors, five community boards, and a nominated Maori board.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Lindsay Mitchell: Child poverty can't be cured through the benefit system

Without doubt one of next year's major election issues will be child poverty. Most of the voices heard on this issue, including the Children's Commissioner, blame the problem on inadequate wealth redistribution. Either wages or benefits are too low. Child poverty is therefore a product of the collective economic system and solving it becomes the responsibility of government.

I disagree. We are commonly told that approximately 270,000 children live in homes with incomes that fall below 60 percent of the median household income. Less focus goes on who these children are and why their parents are poor.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Ron Smith: Oil and Greenpeace - the 'hooligans' are at it again!

There is a lot to debate in regard to oil exploration around New Zealand, both on land and in the adjoining seas.  Oil already makes a substantial contribution to our economy and provides well-paid employment.  It has the potential to do a great deal more.  Of course there are dangers.  Accidents can cause loss of life and environmental damage.  Manifestly, this is not peculiar to oil.  As we know too well, people can die in coal-mining, or in off shore fishing, and there are potential environmental consequences from farming, especially intensive dairy farming, which is at the heart of our present relative economic security.  For some there is also the matter of anthropogenic global warming, which condemns oil exploitation and coal mining, however safely conducted.

We need to reconcile these things.  We need to apply serious cost/benefit analysis.  How much value do we put on the potential revenues and employment possibilities that might come from exploitation of our untouched oil assets?

Richard Prebble: Politically Incorrect thinking

Our government has adopted the lofty goal of making New Zealand smoke free by 2025.  There has been some discussion on whether tobacco prohibition is practical but none on what will be the unintended consequences.  A packet of twenty cigarettes now cost $17 and the price is set to rise by 10 percent a year. The assumption is that the price will cause all smokers to quit.  While the number of smokers has been falling for forty years our experience with hard drugs shows that price is no barrier for an addict. 

The reported rise in amount of duty free cigarettes entering the country indicates that the price has caused an increase in private “importing”.  Down my road a farmer is, legally selling tobacco plants. Soon criminals will organize the private importing and growing.  We are creating the conditions to grow organized crime.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Mike Butler: No retreat on race-based funding

Just eight years ago, the headline announced “Government in retreat over race-based funding”(1). The nation was heading for a general election. National Party leader Don Brash had delivered his nationhood speech on the drift towards racial separatism the preceding year that had sparked a surge in his party’s support -- the biggest gain by a political party in a single poll in Colmar Brunton's polling history.

The “retreat over race-based funding” was part of the Labour government’s strategy to recoup the ground lost to National in the February poll. The interesting aspect of the Herald report was that no one seemed to know a total cost of race-based funding.

Karl du Fresne: Regime change at Radio New Zealand

There’s an “under new management” sign, figuratively speaking, outside Radio New Zealand’s head office in Wellington. Paul Thompson, former editorial chief of the Fairfax media group, recently took over as RNZ’s chief executive.

Thompson is a stranger to the public broadcasting culture from which RNZ’s bosses have traditionally been recruited. His predecessor, Peter Cavanagh, came from Australia’s state-owned ABC. The incumbent before that, Sharon Crosbie, had been a high-profile RNZ broadcaster, though she had also done time in private radio.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Frank Newman: Oil, gas, cheese and scones

This week I had the good fortune to spend a few days in New Plymouth. It’s a fairly long trip so I had plenty of time to contemplate what I would find on arrival. It’s an oil town, of course – right in the heart of the oil and gas fields on and off-shore Taranaki.
Being one who does listen to the news and therefore inescapably the spin coming out of the Green Party and its activist networks, I had expected to see oil rigs blotting the landscape and contaminated waterways and beaches. I didn’t. What I did see was a prosperous community doing well on the back of the oil industry.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Mike Butler: Gift now partnership denied

The Waitangi Tribunal, in a report on the Tongariro National Park claims released on Tuesday, said that Maori did not nobly gift the cluster of mountains, including Ruapehu and Tongariro, to the Crown in 1887. The tribunal renamed the transaction a “tuku” (offer) and asserted that it was actually an offer of joint guardianship of the peaks.

Such a conclusion appears to involve a blatant and self-serving reinterpretation of history resulting from applying treaty principles dreamed up in 1987 to a significant event that occurred 100 years earlier.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Mike Butler: Settlements class action planned

It was only a matter of time before claimants would try to take action against the government alleging the treaty settlement process is flawed, divides tribes, and causes fighting within tribes.

Wellington-based lawyer Moana Sinclair visited Taranaki this week to offer claimants the opportunity to support a class action lawsuit against the Crown that includes claims from Rangitane o Manawatu and Deirdre Nehua, the widow of far-left activist Syd Jackson. Sinclair said five Taranaki sub-tribes had expressed interest in supporting the lawsuit.

Karl du Fresne: The tyranny of the mob - again

Sigh. Here we go again: the tyranny of the mob. Emboldened by numbers and anonymity, the finger-waggers swarm on to Twitter and Facebook, demanding the heads of RadioLive broadcasters Willie Jackson and John Tamihere for asking supposedly inappropriate questions of the friend of an alleged Roast Busters victim. Moral righteousness is never so easy as when there are thousands of you and opinion is never cheaper than when you can join the shrill chorus of condemnation without having to identify yourself.

We have been here before. We saw it with the furore over the late Paul Holmes' throwaway remark - which I suspect was meant ironically, although that point was lost in the moralistic clamour that ensued - about Kofi Annan being a "cheeky darkie". We saw it again when Alasdair Thompson was hounded from his job because he made a perfectly legitimate remark that was deemed offensive to women.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Ron Smith: Beyond Reasonable Doubt - Polonium-210 and the death of Yasser Arafat

According to a recent report on the death of Yasser Arafat, supplied exclusively to Aljazeera, elevated levels of the radio-isotope polonium-210 were found in the exhumed remains of the former PLO leader.  These were such as to ‘moderately support’ polonium as the cause of his 2004 death.  So was polonium used to kill him and if it was, who did it?

There is no doubt that polonium-210 is a lethal poison.  It was used to kill former Russian spy, Alexander Litvinenko in 2006.  This was established by a post-mortem conducted at the time, although the investigation into the cause of his death was not without some difficulty (This appears to have been the first known example of the use of this agent). 

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Mike Butler: Talking up Maori sovereignty

Two Far North elders used the commemoration of the signing of the 1835 Declaration of Independence at Waitangi, on October 28, to talk up a separate Maori government. What’s wrong with that? The only reason anyone outside the little commemoration knew about this was because a Maori TV reporter covered it, and that reporter did so without questioning the mixture of half-truths spouted by the elders.

Elder Nuki Alridge, according to Dean Nathan in a Maori Television report titled “Maori Government Challenge Before Ngapuhi”, described the 1835 Declaration of Independence as “a sovereign covenant bequeathed to their descendants” that the Crown “continues to trample”.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Steve Baron: People speak but aren't heard

Ain’t democracy wonderful, we’ve just finished deciding who will run our local council and now we get to decide if the government should sell up to 49% of Meridian Energy, Mighty River Power, Genesis Power, Solid Energy and Air New Zealand, in a referendum?

Well, no actually… those politicians we elected in 2011 were evidently sprinkled with magical pixie dust which makes them far more intelligent than the rest of us. They have the power to ignore any citizens’ initiated referendum they choose—something they have done on every single citizens’ initiated referendum that has ever been held. Elitism has triumphed over collective wisdom—the Prime Minister and a dozen or so Cabinet Ministers know better than 3 million New Zealand voters.

Steve Baron: System means a lot of votes don't count

While 58% of Wanganui voters posted in their vote in the recent elections, around New Zealand, turnout was lower than ever before. The question I now want to ask voters is… how many of you who voted, actually wasted your vote? If your Council election do not use a system such as STV (Single Transferable Vote), then there were probably many of you.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Richard Prebble: Insight into Politics - David Cunliffe

Being Leader of the Opposition may be the worst job in politics but it is also the job with the best prospects.  Do the job well and you are rewarded with the politics top job.  So it is rather important to discover who David Cunliffe is.

Commentators are not sure where to place David Cunliffe on the political spectrum.  So let us try.

Where would place a person who is an Anglican Minister’s son, was educated at the prestigious United World College of the Atlantic in Wales, got a BA with first class honours from Otago, a Fulbright scholar to Harvard, spent seven years as a diplomat, is married to a prominent lawyer, has two sons and lives in Herne Bay?

Ron Smith: Education and Propaganda

A functioning democracy requires institutions that provide for its citizens an unfettered opportunity to participate in the decisions that affect their lives.  It also requires a free and unbiased media, especially in regard to that part of it that is in public ownership and under official control.  I have commented on the manifest deficiencies of the New Zealand media in this respect on earlier occasions.  See, for example, my ‘Public Service and Public Propaganda’ of August 2011, which focussed on National Radio and the persistent radical bias of the bulk of its presenters and guests. 

But there is a third leg to the democratic ‘stool’ and that is an education system that seriously prepares its future voters to play a part in determining the sort of society in which they will live, rather than be merely election fodder. 

Mike Butler: Rental WoFs, standards, politics

Housing Minister Nick Smith has asked officials to investigate a rental property warrant of fitness scheme, to be trialled on Housing New Zealand properties by early next year. (1) Contractors have already checked state houses looking at the external condition, guttering, roofing, whether doors are securable, whether drains work, and whether there is loose wiring, insulation, or smoke sensors..

The WOF issue was proposed a year ago by the Children’s Commissioner as a measure to combat that favourite vote-catcher of tax-and-redistribute politicians -- child poverty. The Manawatu Tenants Protection Association were the first to call for rental property warrants of fitness, and that was around 13 years ago.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Fiona Mackenzie: Monkey Business in the Town Hall

Strict Maori powhiri protocol was imposed on Auckland Council’s inauguration last Tuesday (29th Oct). Women councillors were directed into the back row behind all their male colleagues, then to the end of the line-up for the hongi. One councillor said she was “shoved” into the back, while another explained that the women simply followed each other. It’s hard to imagine these strong, assertive women willingly being so meek and submissive – especially as their ranks contain at least one ex-MP, two ex-mayors and a deputy mayor.  Wherever the truth lies, the appearance of discrimination and rudeness towards our democratically-elected councillors (and, by inference, all women) was shocking.

Whoever was responsible is obviously unaware that: 1) sexual discrimination is illegal in New Zealand workplaces and government, and 2) in politics, one must be seen to be doing the right thing.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Barend Vlaardingerbroek: Same-sex marriage – a looming quandary

When Marriage Acts are amended to bring same-sex couples within their ambit, those couples become subject to the existing restrictions imposed by blood and family ties (consanguinity and affinity) which forbid people from marrying someone too ‘close’ to them. So if a woman can’t marry her brother, uncle or nephew, she can’t marry her sister, aunt or niece either. Simple, right? As far as it goes, yes. But not once we consider the rationale behind consanguinity restrictions and what the application of the ‘marriage equality’ paradigm to them is likely to lead to.

Admittedly, the effect of consanguinity on marriage custom is not quite as straightforward as I have implied above.

Mike Butler: A day we all can celebrate

Fed up with the endless anti-coloniser protest that takes place every year on Waitangi Day, here’s an idea. Why not create a new day of national pride to mark – our independence from Australia? A day of celebration and national unity could mark November 16, 1840, the date on Queen Victoria’s Royal Charter under which New Zealand became independent of New South Wales and was empowered to set up a legislative council, an executive council, and courts, under a governor.

The driving force behind this new national day is Ross Baker of the One New Zealand Foundation, a group that gained attention in 2006 when it shadowed the government’s Treaty2u propaganda road show around the country, countering biculturalist spin with historical fact.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Mike Butler: Should this treatyist remain a sir?

Prime Minister John Key gave three reasons why former Justice Minister Doug Graham should retain his knighthood, with the first reason his role as Treaty Negotiations Minister. So what was so great about Graham’s work in treaty matters?

Graham went down in the 2008 collapse of the Lombard finance company along with Bill Jeffries, Lawrence Bryant, and Michael Reeves. The Supreme Court last week turned down an application for an appeal against their convictions, but it granted them leave to appeal against their sentences.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Kevin Donnelly from Australia: Lifting student achievement

Forget the argument that non-government schools are no different to government schools in terms of outcomes – Catholic schools in particular have high completion rates and are better able to help disadvantaged students do better than otherwise might be expected.

It’s Year 12 examination time and while there are many other indicators of a student’s success at school – including sporting achievements and developing personal life skills – there’s no doubt that Year 12 results are high on the list.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Richard Epstein from the US: The EPA Gets High on Greenhouse Gases

The key event in the Environmental Protection Agency’s campaign to regulate carbon dioxide as a pollutant came on April 2, 2007. It was the Supreme Court’s decision in Massachusetts v. Environmental Protection Agency. Justice John Paul Stevens, writing for a five-member majority, held that the EPA had a duty to decide whether greenhouse gas emissions from new vehicles are contributing to “air pollution which may reasonably be anticipated to endanger public health or welfare.”

Six years later, the apocalyptic predictions about global warming have not been borne out, notwithstanding the dire rhetoric of Justice Stevens’s opinion. The earth’s temperature has remained stable in the face of increasing concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Indeed, according to measurements from the Climatic Research Unit of the University of East Anglia, “The Earth's average temperature warmed by 1.4ºF (0.8ºC) between the 1850s and 2000s, mostly during 1911-1944 and 1976-1998”—before the upsurge of carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere over the last 15 years.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Lindsay Mitchell: CPAG research flawed

Recent research by the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) is flawed.

CPAG's analysis of Child Youth and Family child abuse data claimed, "The data suggests there is no correlation between benefit receipt and child maltreatment". This despite earlier Auckland University research finding, "Of all children having a finding of maltreatment by age 5, 83 percent are seen on a benefit before age two".

I asked the Ministry of Social Development for the data supplied to CPAG and was given the number of substantiated cases of child abuse and the 0-17 year-old population for each CYF site office. These show that CPAG's calculations are incorrect. For instance, their report states, '...the proportion of 0-17 year olds who were victims of abuse in Papakura was not 4.0% but 0.40 of 1%.' (p9)"

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Ryan Bourne from the UK: China’s astonishing growth trajectory holds few lessons for democratic Britain

“I’ve seen the future and it works.” That was US journalist Lincoln Steffers’s message after visiting the Soviet Union in the 1920s. It’s worth remembering how wrong he turned out to be. Why? George Osborne and Boris Johnson have just come back from China, and they’ll be tempted to use the impressive things they’ve seen to justify huge infrastructure projects, like HS2 and a floating airport off the Kent coast.

Already, Osborne has claimed that China, unlike Britain, has ambition. There may be some truth in this. More uncomfortably, in conservative circles I’ve heard some discuss “the limits of democracy” – whether seen in the time it takes to build nuclear power stations, or the recent stand-off over the US debt ceiling. Sometimes this implies that China’s model of so-called political-economic “state capitalism” may be on to something.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Karl du Fresne: Are there rorts we don't know about?

There has long been a nagging suspicion that taxpayer-supported Maori organisations are not always held to the same standards of accountability as non-Maori ones.
Along with that, there is a suspicion that there exists within Maoridom a mindset which holds that allegations of dodgy practices should be dealt with in the Maori way; that Maori are accountable only to Maori, even when public money is at stake, and outside institutions have no business poking their noses in. Keep it in the family, so to speak.

What’s more, it’s sometimes hard to escape the feeling that government departments and other bureaucratic institutions play along with this in the interests of cultural sensitivity, even if it means turning a blind eye to irregularities.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Frank Newman: Payday loans

Central government is currently reviewing consumer credit law.  That has awakened media interest in the scandalous Payday Loan industry, which has grown exponentially in recent years with the arrival of overseas companies setting up shop (quite possibly because of the light handed regulatory environment of the non-bank lending sector and the low level of financial literacy in New Zealand).

Payday loans are short-term unsecured loans of small amounts intended to get the borrower though to the next payday, but generally they have a maximum term of a month or two. According to the website of the lenders, typical examples are paying for groceries, power bills, vehicle breakdowns, and the like. The reality is there are probably a host of other reasons why desperate people end up at the doorstep of these usurious lenders. They usually start out of small amounts – just a few hundred dollars, and every lender has different terms, but they do have one thing in common – outrageously high interest rates: 500% per annum is not unusual.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Mike Butler: Whangarei land sold, not ‘lost’

Allegations at the Nga Hapu o Whangarei hearings last week that “culturally significant” sites were “lost” or “taken” as a result of ‘‘unscrupulous tactics sanctioned and assisted by the Crown” disguise the fact that the land was not lost, it was sold.(1)

Tribunal officials and tribal representatives visited harbours, rivers, forests and urban areas on which sit Government and corporate entities between Whangarei's east coast and Kaipara District's west coast. The hearings process began on Sunday with ritual welcomes.

Mike Butler: A world with 30-million slaves

There are around 30 million slaves in the world today, according to the first Global Slavery Index Report by the Walk Free Foundation. The 10 countries with the highest number of enslaved or exploited workers are: India, China, Pakistan, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Russian Federation, Thailand, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Myanmar and Bangladesh.
Mauritania, with about 150,000 slaves, retains the highest proportion of enslaved people in the world, with aspects of "chattel slavery" that back to the American experience of the institution, where human beings are considered "full property of their masters who exercise total ownership over them and their descendants."

Friday, October 18, 2013

Karl du Fresne: Leave it to Maori and hope for the best

The recent conviction of a Hawke’s Bay kaitiaki, or “guardian” of customary fisheries, makes a mockery of the word.
Napier District Court heard that authorisations issued by Rangi Spooner under customary fishing regulations covered multiple dates instead of the allowed 48-hour period. A man named Jason Brown obtained 11 such authorisations and was later convicted of illegally selling crayfish for $10 each. A separate hearing was told that Brown caught 1730 crays, supposedly for events at his house. That’s a helluva lot of crayfish.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Richard Epstein: The Obamacare Train Wreck

Defunding or repealing the law is practically impossible, but here’s how we can fix it.

It is now common knowledge that the bugs in the Obamacare website have been embedded in the system from the start. For the past two weeks, not only have many individuals found it impossible to access the website, but they are often frozen in place once they pass through the initial portal. The problems will just get worse. The current law requires extensive communications between enrollees and their chosen insurance carriers, as well as massive interaction with both federal and state organizations. As a result, web traffic builds up behind bottlenecks and leads to massive frustration. As I warned last May, watching Obamacare unravel is a painful business.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Ron Smith: Iran, Israel and Nuclear Weapons

A couple of critics of my recent posting (29 September) on the Iranian nuclear weapon programme commented that I had failed to notice the already existing substantial arsenal possessed by Israel.  There are a number of observations that might be made about this criticism and the most obvious of these is that they represent the classic ‘change the subject’ move.  The fact that Israel has a substantial nuclear arsenal, and has had such weapons for nearly fifty years, is quite beside the point.

Iran is not saying that it ought to be allowed to develop nuclear weapons because another party in the region has such weapons.  It is saying that it has no nuclear weapon programme and that its present nuclear activities are entirely peaceful. 

Monday, October 14, 2013

Richard Prebble: Insight into Politics - Voting systems matter

Recent events, the German, the Australian and last week’s local body elections, remind us how the voting system can change the result. Our media reports that Angela Merkel and her Christian Democrats have had a stunning win.  It was a remarkable result. The Conservatives are the largest party and have increased their vote and under First Past the Post they would have a huge majority.  But Germany has MMP.  The Christian Democrats are just short of 50% of the seats. While the Social Democrats (Labour) and the Greens had an awful election result with the Left Party (the former Communist party) they have a majority in the Bundestag and could form the government. 

The Social Democrats have promised not to go into coalition with the Left Party.  How long before that promise is forgotten?

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Ron Smith: Greenpeace and the Temptations of Utopianism

The Greenpeace response to the actions of the Russian authorities, following the invasion of their oil-drilling platform by Greenpeace activists, has been revealing and deeply ironic.  The Russian actions, they said, were an ‘assault on the very principle of peaceful protest.  Most pointedly, Greenpeace also said of the Russian tactics, that they were, ‘intimidatory’.

Of course, they were right in this latter comment.  What the Russians did (and are continuing to do) is indeed, intimidatory.  They are intent on putting up the price of the kind of ‘protest’ that is Greenpeace’s stock-in-trade.  And this is where the irony comes in.

Frank Newman: Heritage hassles

A decision by the Environment Court has blocked the demolition of an earthquake prone building in Wellington. That has reignited the debate about how much of the past should be preserved and who should bear the cost of protecting items of heritage value.

The Court acknowledged the Harcourts Building on Lambton Quay has “significant seismicity issues” and can't be rented out but said the building contributed strongly to the “Lambton Quay streetscape”. Having no commercial value did not justify its demolition, the Court said.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Karl du Fresne: A shot in the dark

Some of us (but only a minority, by the look of things) have taken the time during the past couple of weeks to cast our votes in the local government elections. As a result of this three-yearly exercise in participatory democracy, some cities and towns will have new mayors by this time next week. A much larger number will have an intake of new councillors.

As always, the candidates include a significant proportion of no-hopers, cranks, misfits, oddballs, mischief-makers, egotists and single-issue obsessives. Fortunately, local government also attracts conscientious, capable people who genuinely want to serve their communities. The problem for voters is that it’s often hard to tell the difference between the two types of candidate.

Lindsay Mitchell: Complaints about ECE care

In my article Vulnerable Children bill: Will it make a difference? published a few days ago, I wrote:
Today abuse is split into four categories; emotional, physical, sexual and neglect. In 2012 emotional abuse made up 56 percent of substantiated findings, physical – 15 percent , sexual – 6 percent and neglect, 22 percent. Child, Youth and Family record data about the nature of substantiated findings. Unfortunately information about the relationship between the offender and victim is not available.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Mike Butler: Refund from Ngai Tahu required

While South Island tribe Ngai Tahu is demanding more than the $68.5-million top-up paid this year under the relativity clause of their 1998 settlement, the government could demand return of the $170-million paid in 1998 on the grounds that it was paid in error. Ngai Tahu has entered arbitration with the Crown over interpretation of the clauses that detail how the relativity payment should be calculated, according to news reports. (1)

The Ngai Tahu agreement, like that of Waikato-Tainui, was reached in an environment in which the government argued that all treaty settlements should total no more than $1-billion dollars, with the settlement cap called a “fiscal envelope”.