Saturday, August 31, 2013

Barend Vlaardingerbroek: Syria chemical weapons attacks – we still don’t know who is responsible

Thank goodness for the House of Commons, and especially those Conservative members who broke ranks with the government over a military strike on Syria. The US could still go it alone. It would be a punitive strike, which is in breach of international law, but the US has never cared much for international law. They have said that a strike would be ‘specific’ and that its function would be to deter Damascus from using chemical weapons again – clearly an attempt to don the ‘R2P’ (responsibility to protect) mantle. 

What utter bunkum – all it will achieve if it goes ahead is to weaken the regime’s ability to deal with the insurrection. Perhaps al-Qaida will send a thank-you postcard to the White House afterwards.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Lindsay Mitchell: Child abuse rates in the beneficiary population: MSD cover-up by omission

Warning: laborious statistical workings below...

I've hesitated to label a new Ministry of Social Development factsheet a "cover-up" but having chewed over it for a few days I've decided that's exactly what it is. For the first time MSD has examined a "birth cohort ever present in New Zealand" and the overlapping contact with the benefit system, care and protection or youth justice services in the years to age 17. They used 1993.

Ron Smith: Dresden and Damascus - Making hard decisions

A few days ago, the Dresden (Germany) authorities opened a new four-lane bridge across the Elbe into the historic city.  In building this bridge, which will significantly improve traffic flows, they have now lost their world heritage status.  This was made plain in June, when the chairman of the United Nations Educational Social and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), World Heritage Committee Chairperson, Spaniard Maria Jésus San Segundo, denounced this as an unacceptable assault on a ‘cultural landscape’.  So that’s it.  Dresden is no longer a World Heritage site.  It is now an ancient city, full of wonderful buildings (many, for reasons that we well appreciate, lovingly restored) and a nasty modern bridge.  How easy it all is.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Michael Coote: Heritage hides development favours

Auckland Council is the gift that keeps on giving, at least if you’re one of the local Maori tribes expecting to cash in on its Unitary Plan (UP). A memo to councillors and local board chairs dated July 31, 2013, from Dr Roger Blakeley, chief planning officer of Auckland Council, makes plain the privileged access Maori are being given within the decision-making process for finalising the UP.

“Throughout engagement on the draft Unitary Plan, mana whenua have repeatedly requested ‘face-to-face’ (kanohi ki te kanohi) engagement with decision-makers,” Dr Blakeley writes.

Karl du Fresne: New admissions to the judicial hall of fame

When I was a novice reporter in Wellington, my duties including covering what was then called the Magistrate’s Court (now known as the District Court). Naturally, I got to know some of the magistrates – not personally, you understand; they were far too magisterial for that. But by observing them from the press bench I did become familiar with their habits and idiosyncrasies.
The regular magistrates included J A Wicks (they were always referred to by their initials in those days), D J Sullivan and M B Scully. Mr Wicks – later to become Sir James – had glasses and wispy hair. He was quietly spoken and gave the impression of being a kindly man, but he brooked no nonsense.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Richard Epstein: The Dream Derailed

Fifty years ago, Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his “I have a dream” speech at the Lincoln Memorial to a crowd of over 200,000 people. The crowd had gathered to protest the dangerous state into which race relations had fallen in the summer of 1963. King’s memorable speech was part of “the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom,” and its solemn cadences ring as powerfully today they did 50 years ago. No one who heard it could forget its immensely powerful assault on segregation, the demise of which no respectable person—northerner or southerner—mourns today. No one should forget that King’s speech was a major catalyst in moving a still reluctant nation to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Mike Butler: Debunking local govt 'partnership'

Auckland Maori Statutory Board demands plus moves to amalgamate local bodies have prompted the new rich tribal corporations to use the “partnership” claim as a means of demanding reserved seats at the ‘main table’ of their nearest territorial authority as a treaty right. This week’s statement from the tribalist co-chair of the Better Local Government Working Party directed at local authorities north of Auckland presents reasoning that only the most gullible and poorly informed could accept.

In a lengthy letter to the Northland Age on August 22 (1), co-chair Rangitane Marsden quotes the Treaty of Waitangi as a basic scripture to justify a special role for tribes that sits outside the democratic process in which voting rights are based on citizenship, not race . He also uses the shroud-waving Maori disadvantage argument in a further attempt to legitimise his claim for reserved Maori seats.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Bryce Edwards: NZ Politics Daily

Labour’s new leadership is quickly shaping up to be a likely David Cunliffe and Grant Robertson combo, as leader and deputy, and there may be no real contest. Although various political journalists are surveying the leadership options and suggest a full Labour leadership contest will play out with a struggle between Cunliffe and Robertson, in reality the more likely scenario is that the two contenders will combine in as a formidable ‘unity ticket’, leaving a wider democratic contest essentially unnecessary, or at least uncompetitive. 

Certainly when leading political commentator John Armstrong comes out – as he has today – and declares that Cunliffe is the only real option for leader, then the discussion starts shifting into an inevitable consensus – see: The only option... it has to be the ambitious unpopular one.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Mike Butler: Sharples seeks Maori Council revamp

The New Zealand Maori Council is known for going to court to squeeze financial favours out of the government. Wardens patrol liquor outlets to extract Maori drinkers who have become abusive through over-indulgence. Both exist under the Maori Community Development Act 1962 (1) that Maori Affairs Minister Pita Sharples this week announced a review of and sought submissions.

This Act, known as the Maori Welfare Act until 1979, was a response to more Maori moving to the cities after World War II, and replaced tribal committees that were recognised through the Maori Social and Economic Advancement Act 1945.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Michael Coote: Iwi plans push tribal supremacy

In its draft Unitary Plan (UP), Auckland Council slips in mention that it will, “Require [land] subdivision, use and development … to incorporate the outcomes articulated by mana whenua through consultation and within iwi planning documents.”

This statement would ordinarily be a recitation of basic legal obligations on Auckland Council under the Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA), except that the UP is proposing an entirely political commitment to privilege and facilitate the interests of Auckland’s Maori tribes over the rest of the community.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Mike Butler: Its biculturalism as usual at TPK

Governments with their different policies come and go but policies that further partnership, protection, consultation, and compensation for Maori continue. Why? Much responsibility for the exponential growth of biculturalism can be traced to the government’s Maori department, Te Puni Kokiri, and its "policy wahanga".

The "policy wahanga" aims to improve “citizenship outcomes for Maori in key social and economic domains through whanau-centred approaches; and on the ongoing Treaty of Waitangi based partnership relationships between the Crown and hapu and iwi”, according to the Te Puni Kokiri website. (1)

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Kevin Donnelly: The education debate heats up as the Australian election looms

In the lead-up to the 2007 election the opposition leader, Kevin Rudd, argued that if elected he would champion an education revolution directed at raising standards and making Australian students more internationally competitive.
Six years later the Australian Council for Educational Research's analysis of national and international test results prove what a failure this Labor government has been under Julia Gillard and Rudd. Finally, the penny has dropped and the education establishment is admitting that our students, especially talented ones, underperform and that something urgent needs to be done.

Lindsay Mitchell: To work or not to work - what is the government trying to incentivise?

This is intriguing. Below are the rates for the Youth Parent Payment:

Category Net Gross
Sole parent, 16 to 17 years, living with or supported by parents who earn less than the Family Tax Credit threshold $137.47 $153.60
Married, civil union or de facto couple (with children) Total $343.68 $384.00
Each $171.84 $192.00
Sole parent $295.37 $335.18
Hospital rate $42.64 $47.64

$295.37 is exactly the same as Sole Parent Support.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Gerry Eckhoff: Independent MPs

At first glance the eventual loss of so many Otago institutions such as the Invermay research facility and Hillside work shops (where railway wagons were built) has little to do with the way we elect our political representatives to Parliament. (It actually has a lot to do with the fact that only railway wagons were built there)

 In fact it has everything to do with our electoral system allowing political parties to appoint – not our, but their representatives. The fault lies directly with the Political Party system of governance of this country. National, Labour, Greens, NZ First etc. all exercise total control of who they will accept into Parliament and not the voters. The voters elect the parties but the MPs are chosen by the party.

Lindsay Mitchell: 90 percent of teenage parents on welfare haven't met obligations

From August 20, 2012 teenage parents requiring financial assistance were put on the Young Parent Payment (YPP).

At the end of March 2013 there were 1,346 YPP recipients:

56 percent were Maori.
6 percent were male.
87 percent were living in the North Island.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Mike Butler: Consent fees reduction needed

Forget about fevered opposition to proposed Resource Management Act changes from the Green Party, Labour, Maori Party, Environmental Defence and Forest and Bird. If you want to build or modify your home or garage, some consent fees have increased by 600 percent since implementation of the Building Act 2004. Building consent fees for a new garage were $231.35 in 2005 soared to $1401 this year, with an extra resource consent fee of $510 added in a project to relocate an existing garage. Crippling requirements have meant many building improvements have become too costly and difficult to be worthwhile.

Here are some building consent charges levied by the Hastings District Council since 1994.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Matt Ridley: I may follow the crowd, but not because it's a crowd

Evidence, not consensus, is what counts. 

Last week a friend chided me for not agreeing with the scientific consensus that climate change is likely to be dangerous. I responded that, according to polls, the "consensus" about climate change only extends to the propositions that it has been happening and is partly man-made, both of which I readily agree with. Forecasts show huge uncertainty.

Mike Butler: Unpacking same-sex slogans

How many times have you heard or debated the slogan that same-sex parents are just as good at parenting as heterosexuals? Sociologist Walter Schumm of Kansas State University has applied his expertise in surveying attitudes and opinions to the deceptive simplicity of this question. He starts by looking at what the elements of this slogan could mean.

Richard Epstein: In Defense of the NSA

Its wiretapping program has been derided as an intolerable invasion of individual privacy rights, but it has benefits for national security.

Roger Pilon of the Cato Institute and I wrote an op-ed in The Chicago Tribune that gave a qualified defense of the controversial NSA surveillance program. Libertarians from the left and the right have come together in shrill opposition to the wiretapping program; they object to the government’s collection, retention, and examination of sensitive individual data.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Mike Butler: Fishery settlement mischief

Tribal misbehaviour and government favouritism is the outcome of a process that started nearly 30 years ago with a treaty claim by few part-time fishers in the Far North that was expanded by a Waitangi Tribunal ruling, a High Court injunction, and resulted in dividing up the nation's ocean fishery along racial lines. The assertion that the 1992 $170-million commercial fisheries settlement would “get young Maori into the fisheries business” was one of several sanctimonious justifications to obscure the naked opportunism and political weakness surrounding that settlement.

That settlement started off as a claim by Far North tribes for a share of quota introduced by the Fisheries Act 1983 which was an attempt to maintain fisheries at a sustainable level. The claim was on behalf of those who supplemented their income with part-time fishing.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Mike Butler: Fisheries favouritism pondered

A clause exempting iwi quota holders from having to use New Zealand-flagged boats after 2016 remains in the Fisheries (Foreign Charter Vessels and Other Matters) Amendment Bill despite an indication from Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy that the amended bill would not stamp out bad behaviour.

The exemption for tribal owners of fishery quota until 2020 was included in the bill that would require all fishing vessels to re-flag and register in New Zealand by 2016. Tribal corporations claimed it would be uneconomical to fish the quota if they could not continue to use foreign vessels.

Lindsay Mitchell: CPAG research inconclusive at best

New research from the Child Poverty Action Group, who are campaigning to increase benefit levels, finds there is,
 "no evidence of an association between benefit receipt and distinct substantiated rates of child abuse."   
And later under 'Conclusion', "...benefit income does not appear to be related to rates of child abuse."

How did they arrive at this?