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Monday, September 30, 2013

TV Review

My TV review is posted up over at The Daily Blog . This week: the government sends a letter announcing they are abolishing television as we know it.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Ill winds

Was it this morning's America's Cup racing loss?  Or is it a jet-lagged hang-over?  Anyone else suspect John Key is just a raging alchy?

Tell me his Prime Ministership isn't just one big pub crawl conducted to cheers of "scull!"

Turns out he can't even walk a block without popping in for a quick one.

NZ Herald:
Prime Minister John Key has taken ill soon after arriving in New York, having to rest in a nearby pub for a while when walking up to his first engagement at the United Nations.
He needed to lean against a wall for a few minutes before going into McFaddens pub. He spent about five minutes in the pub before emerging, looking very pale.

He must have received the news about this morning's poll while he was in the pub.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013


The NZ TAB took a bath by backing Emirates Team New Zealand in this last race. NZ's collective and petulant demands to hurry up with the inevitable win, claim our assured victory and all the total confidence at the start of the regatta is finally caving to fear today. Everyone here is still unbearably disrespectful of the opposition and so enraptured with their own hero-worshipping and elevating a bit of corporate cockery into a national fixation they warrant no sympathy for their state of anxiety, hovering on match point.

And no more funding from Uncle John if they fuck it up, or from Labour either - Cunliffe said 'if' they win. So the good news is that's about $10 per taxpayer being saved should they get their classic Kiwi choke on.

So, yeah, but no, whatever... I'm not sure which came first for me, but probably not caring about the results came before losing interest. How far away is 'Have we lost yet?'

Friday, September 20, 2013

Nothing says NZ like Emirates

'In the bag' is how RNZ news was describing it - and that was on Monday. NZers were 'expecting it to be wrapped up by Monday' and the win was assured from the first day of racing anyway. The Oracle team were going to lose because they were cheats, American cheats, and having been docked two points just sealed their fate. It is NZ's cup. Just hurry up. Etc.

This NZ entitlement mentality is at odds with the traditional NZ loathing of the skiting and arrogance of the Australian nemisis. It is ugly and unnerving to see how hollow the assumed good sportsmanship is in reality.

I half listened to the race on the wireless - billed as they all have this week as being the final day and the day NZ takes home the auld mug. NZ lost. Then the wind got up and the next race was cancelled. 'This is like groundhog day' remarked the host on Radio Live later when recounting NZ's inevitable road to victory. If groundhog day is losing a race a day then I'm not sure why her, and everyone else's confidence is so monumentally high.

If the Oracle team and the billionaire behind it are committed to winning then that means very aggressive tactics in these close contests. One error, forced or not, and the show's over for the NZ cert.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The 'quota ballot' system

Anyone looking at who gets elected to local government in New Zealand will be struck with the lack of diversity of representation. While some may vote to counteract it, the fact is the majority of electors who do actually vote are greying white folk who tend to choose people like them. 

My general proposal to promote diverse representation is a quota system.  However the quota is not to be applied after the vote, it is to be applied on the ballot itself with the voter making their choices conforming to the minimum requirements of the quota (which is more democratic).  So this proposal ensures all valid votes are in conformity with quota, but does not predetermine the outcome.  It makes it more likely, much more likely, that a wider selection of different people are elected than present (along the three main relevant social divisions), but there is no guarantee as such.

The proposed quota items are limited to three because any more really starts to get complicated.  I have chosen the central ones of age, gender and culture (yes language rather than race).  The quota is only workable in multi-member constituencies (making it suitable for most local bodies).

Here is a sample image of the 'quota ballot':

 And in practice:
Maybe slightly confusing to start with, but I put concise instructions at the top and a "minimum" underneath to emphasise the point of the quota.  I gave one to someone without telling them anything and they managed to complete it without problems, so I'm hopeful it may be of some use.

In a situation where there is only one candidate filling the quota then that person is elected and that quota item drops off the ballot (leaving the other two) and the number to be elected is reduced by one.

This quota ballot could be used for any number  of items and any number of positions in a multi-member constituency.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Conservation penalties

Backbench National MP, Jacqui Dean (Waitaki), has had her members bill, the Conservation (Natural Heritage Protection) Bill, reach the second reading. The bill increases penalties across a range of conservation legislation and has met with widespread approval, if not much notice.  It only came to my attention just over a week ago when I caught a bit of the second reading debate in parliament.  I have two concerns, but am not sure whether or not an SOP can amend it at this point. The first is that Maori fishing rights are left unprotected by way of an offence.  Lots of penalties for all sorts of infractions against all sorts of arbitrary things, and against all manner of asserted Pakeha/Crown notions and people, but no offence to stomping all over Maori fishing rights.  This must change and this bill is exactly the right opportunity to do it. 

Proposed SOPs:
1. Amend 4C by inserting the words:
"(a) section 26ZH, which relates to affecting protected Maori fishing rights:"
immediately after "(2) The provisions are -" and re-alphabetise the list below accordingly.

2. Amend 4C by inserting the words:
"(d) in the case of an offence against section 26ZH to be dealt with as if it were an offence against section 41(a)."
immediately after "for every day on which the offence continues".

This will allow anyone affecting (ie. interfering or preventing) a customary Maori fishing practice to be proceeded against at law and penalised as if they were resisting or obstructing officers and rangers (sec.41a).

 My other concern is with the blanket clauses for all the various legislation being amended regarding commercial motivation - not so much with the idea that commercial exploitation should be punished more harshly than non-commercial, but the difficulties with the offence and penalty mechanism as far as the court procedure and fairness to the defendant go.  Despite the claim from the promoter that it is in line with other acts, she does not state them and I cannot find (by a phrase check) any other legislation that has the same wording.

My issue is with the opening statement:
43D Penalties for offences committed for commercial gain or reward
(1) If a person is convicted of an offence against this Act and, on sentencing for that offence, the Court is satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that the offence was committed for the purpose of commercial gain or reward (whether or not any gain or reward is realised), the person is liable instead of any penalty otherwise prescribed to,—
(a) in the case of [...]  5 years.


The normal penalty is given as 2 years so an increase to 5 is significant, but that penalty is applied only after conviction when the case has gone on as if under 2 years and without reference to addressing any commercial aspect. It should at least state that the penalty shall only be applied after submissions on this point are heard from the defendant rather than leaving it up to the court alone to determine built around inferences at trial. It could also be solved by having a separate offence of commercial offending that could be pursued in the alternative.


Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Late meetings

It never fails to astound me...

...that the local body elections can be underway pretty much as soon as nominations open in August and yet the councils continue to meet and the local politicians continue throughout the period.  The inevitable occurs every three years: all the flagship shopping areas get newly sealed roads and footpaths, all the other projects the councillors have started during their term come rolling in in the last few months, free fuel for their re-election campaigns.  No wonder there is such an incumbency advantage when they are legally able to do this.  They are using the councils' perks to push themselves.  Leaving major decisions until the election is off and running may be great politics, but is poor practice.  And the Auckland Council, for example, has meetings all the way through September, with a full council meeting on the 26th when the ballot papers have been in people's hands for almost a week!  It is an abuse that has to stop.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013


[Richard Jefferies, left, and Paora Maxwell, right]

The Maori TV CEO appointment process has been a disaster. It could not possibly be worse than the inauspicious appointment of a Canadian fantasist with a fictious CV, but it does have all the elements of an ongoing slow-motion train wreck nonetheless as more and more parties are drawn into the crisis.

MTS reporting on its own tribulations:
The Board of Māori Television has decided not to appoint a new Chief Executive after it was unable to reach a unanimous decision.
In announcing the decision not to appoint a new CEO, Chairman Georgina Te Heuheu acknowledged the impact that speculation has had on candidates who applied for the role.
“As Chairman, I fully expect to be held accountable for my actions but I am disappointed by the distress caused to those who submitted their applications in good faith.”
A further announcement will be made regarding an interim Chief Executive following the departure of Jim Mather on 18 October. The Board will now take time to consult with key stakeholders, the Crown and Te Pūtahi Paoho, to decide on next steps. 

The first difficulty is that Te Heu Heu is only a few years out of the National Cabinet, having been put onto the board as an act of partisan patronage by her colleagues.  The other major difficulties are the composition and competency of the board and the campaign against Maxwell:

NZ Herald:
In an astonishing move - harking back to dysfunction during the early days of Maori TV - at least 68 of the 170 staff had signed a petition to the board asking the Board to not appoint Maxwell, a former general manager of Maori and Pasifika programming at TVNZ.
Maori TV confirmed yesterday that Crown appointee Ian Taylor had resigned from the board. The resignation of Taylor - the head of the successful TV company Taylormade and the most commercially savvy board member - raises further concerns about the workings of the Board since the departure of former chairman Gary Muriwai.

People may think that Maxwell's inability to garner trust amongst the rank and file staff will put the academic, Richard Jefferies, in by default; but from what I've heard he is no saint either. I have been told some stories of woe from his involvement in tribal affairs from various people and none of it would fill anyone with confidence.  He seems to be flying somewhat under the radar, but that might not last if the process is dragged out.

They have really got themselves in quite a tangle.  All of which is such a pity as their quality of programming has gone from strength to strength.

Monday, September 09, 2013

Unsafer communities

Where were the police?

A woman says she was repeatedly raped by a man after police took away her car keys and left her stranded in a pub car park in the early hours of the morning. The keys were taken away at 4am at the Embankment Tavern carpark in Christchurch because the woman was a restricted driver, by two young constables who were in the city on post-earthquake duties.
Crown prosecutor Deirdre Elsmore said that on June 23, 2011, the woman had left her children in the care of an aunt when she made a late night visit to play the poker machines at the tavern. She was not drinking, and left the tavern when it closed about 4am. As she left, she was handed a bottle of bourbon and coke by a man who had about five opened bottles and was giving them to patrons.
In the carpark she was approached by two police officers who asked if she was drink-driving. When she explained the bottle, they checked her licence and took her keys away when they found she was outside the time for her restricted licence.
She broke the car window to get in to try to hot wire it and asked for help from passers-by. Schooner offered to give her a fork she could use if she went to his house nearby in Oliviers Road.
The complainant at the trial gave evidence of arguing with the police officers and swearing at them. She told them she had not been drinking but just "playing the pokies" and she just wanted to get home to her babies. One of the officers said: "What are you doing here, spending your babies' money?" She told the court: "If they hadn't taken my keys it would have been okay. The police didn't ask how I'd get home - didn't really care."

"I'll give you a fork at my place" is possibly the weakest defence to rape ever recorded.  But beyond that, what excuse do the two police officers have for putting someone in that unsafe situation? We see drunks being offered free lifts by cops on the reality TV shows, so why not in her circumstances?

Presumably she just wasn't that drunk, maybe not drunk at all. She wasn't required to undergo a breath test, so presumably she wasn't operating the car at the time - just walking in the carpark or sitting in the car and stationary.  And this was to prevent a breach of her restricted licence - not preventing drunk driving. Her restriction ends one hour before sunrise, which would have been about two hours away. She actually has a defence to breaching her licence, a lawful excuse, which is her personal safety.

The police thought they had the authority to seize someone's keys, but obviously didn't think they had any responsibility for the consequences of their actions. They should be made accountable.

TV review

My TV review for The Daily Blog is posted up over there: on the Labour leadership contest, '3 monkeys and the gorilla'.

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

NZ Taxman

The rainbow of fascism that is the NZ government has superextended its authority again.  Stuff reporting:
Defaulters on student loans and child payments will soon be tracked using their passports. An "information-sharing" deal allows Department of Internal Affairs to share contact details with Inland Revenue (IRD).
It means Kiwis living overseas, who haven't paid child-support payments or student-loan repayments, and apply to renew their passport will be contacted through the address they provide.
The regulation comes into effect on October 3. It follows a crackdown on student-loan defaulters announced in May's Budget.
Sanctions mean those who have a debt of more than $15,000 and who ignore IRD repayment requests could be arrested at the border.

These measures are contrary to the NZ Bill of Rights Act and international law - as every citizen has a right to leave and re-enter their own country - but this doesn't seem to stop each successive government imposing increasingly harsh restrictions and penalties on debtors to the Crown.  The people targetted aren't criminals either, they have committed no offence (apart from perhaps the provisions of such an unlawful rule), they have not been charged or prosecuted or convicted, they just owe some money is all. And because they owe it to the government instead of an ordinary creditor the officials have pursuaded the politicians to pass statutes using the power of the government (and its relationship with Australia and the UK) to bully and harass the nation's tardy taxpayers.

Coincidentally yesterday I finished the alternative lyrics to the Beatles track, Taxman... 

Taxman – G. Harrison / NZ Taxman – T. Selwyn
1,2,3,4,1,2  / [Dial IRD, automated prompts start, hold up speaker to mic]

Let me tell you how it will be,
There’s one for you, nineteen for me, 
We’ve just put up the GST
‘Cause I’m the Taxman,
Yeah, I’m the Taxman.
Should five per cent appear too small,
  Should your assessment be at fault,
Be thankful I don’t take it all. 
Your arse is mine until you're broke,
‘Cause I’m the Taxman,
Yeah, I’m the Taxman.
(If you drive a car-car ), I’ll tax the street,  (If you take drug-drugs) I’ll tax your hit,
(If you try to sit ), I’ll tax your seat, (If you take a dump) I’ll tax your shit,
(If you get too cold ), I’ll tax the heat,
(If you make a quid) I’ll take a buck,
(If you take a walk ), I’ll tax your feet.
(If you want to love) I’ll tax the fu**.   

‘Cause I’m the Taxman,
Yeah, I’m the Taxman.

Don’t ask me what I want it for,
Now I’ll add up the penalties,
(Haha! Mister Wilson!)
(Haha! Student Loans!)
If you don’t want to pay some more,
And interest on top of these,
(Haha! Mister Heath!),
(Haha! Child Maintenance!)
‘Cause I’m the Taxman,
Yeah, I’m the Taxman.
Yeah, I’m Peter Dunne, man! – check out the hair.

Now my advice for those who die, (Taxman!)
If you have a mind to escape (Taxman!)
Declare the pennies on your eyes, (Taxman!) ‘Cause I’m the Taxman,
I’ll stop you at the customs gate (Taxman!)
Cause I’m the taxman
Yeah, I’m the Taxman.
And you’re working for no-one but me,
And the rich man’s capital gains are all tax-free
Yeah, I’m the Commissioner of Inland Revenue,
[Fade to IRD call prompts ongoing.]


Probably suits a rage/thrash treatment.

Monday, September 02, 2013

Asset sales referendum is go!

327,224 people have a reason to be happy today - John Key isn't one of them.

NZ Herald:
The petition, organised by the Keep Our Assets coalition and led by Grey Power president Roy Reid, asked: "Do you support the Government selling up to 49 per cent of Meridian Energy, Mighty River Power, Genesis Power, Solid Energy and Air New Zealand?"
Shares in Mighty River Power were first floated on May 10 this year.
The Clerk of the House of Representatives, Mary Harris, today said she was satisfied the petition had more than the 308,753 signatories required on March 12, the day it was delivered.
The Government will then have a month to set a date for holding the referendum or specify that it is to be a postal referendum.[...]Dr Norman defended the cost of holding the referendum separately from a general election, which was estimated to be around $9 million.
"Let's put it in perspective - the Government has spent over $100 million already on an asset sale programme which is extremely unpopular."

The opposition parties are calling for the asset sales programme to be halted until the referendum is voted.  No chance, of course.  The Nats are hell-bent on hocking off the maximum 49% of Meridian that they can before any voters get a say. And it should be noted that the proceeds will be going to a slew of farmer/corporate subsidies rather than to pay off debt, so the scheme is doubly dodgy. I signed the petition, but my concern still remains about the wording:
Do you support the Government selling up to 49% of Meridian Energy, Mighty River Power, Genisis Power, Solid Energy and Air New Zealand?

Two major issues: Firstly, the question should be posed as a positive, rather than asking your supporters to cast a no vote. Secondly, the question is too complicated with percentages and names of companies. The question is a dog's breakfast, it really is. Whoever designed the question must have been a Tory. Asking people if they want to retain full public ownership of state assets would have been a better way to approach it.

Housing the symptom, immigration the disease

The National government says Auckland needs more land for more houses.  The Mayor says Auckland needs more affordable houses... and "to unlock new land by fast-tracking consents for development" and is intent to run with National's Apartheid-sounding 'Special Housing Areas' to achieve it. 

Auckland doesn't need any of this of course: it is lumped with the influx of the majority of immigrants into the nation whether the city wants them or not - that is where the demand arises - from central government policy, not natural population increase. Auckland's land/housing problem is a population question, an immigration question, and ultimately a colonial question.
NZ has a more colonial demographic now than it had even before WW2.  Only 73% of the population were actually born in this country and that was the figure from 2006. Now it will probably be closer to 70%. In many parts of Auckland immigrants now make up most of the population. 2nd+ generation Pakeha (those with no immigrant parents) have been in a minority of the population for some ten years or so.  This is radical change.

Since the passing of the immigration reforms of 1987 more immigrants have settled in NZ than the entire Maori population.

The stats officials studiously avoid any population projection beyond 20 years (and the Auckland Council officials beyond even ten years!) because they will show at some point that the non-Europeans will be in the majority and this will alarm the Pakeha population (particularly the working classes locked out of home ownership and facing impaired career prospects due to the competing immigrants). The political and social tensions this will cause are more latent than apparent at present and there is an expectation the stability and appearance of social cohesion will continue without any particular effort. In other words the classic, short term 'she'll be right' attitude upon which so many a disaster has begun.
All these houses that are needed immediately and needed into the future are needed for foreigners.  No-one in Auckland politics is willing to challenge this central government policy.

The reasons for this acceptance are also ultimately colonial: the self-interest of the established Auckland settlers in increasing the value of their property and the value of their businesses.  As long as the Pakeha position in the pyramid is above the new entrants then they have an incentive to support the pyramid-building - as does the next cohort of new settlers.  The routine property covers in Metro and the NZ Listener are constant reminders of that middle class aspiration and the dominant focus of Auckland.  But eventually the pyramid sceme - because it relies on adding an exponentially growing volume of people to maintain the level of windfall gains on the value of the scarce resources held by these incumbents - must prove unsustainable and will collapse at some point.  But what will NZ look like at that point?

The property system is itself supported by the democratic political system, both of which can only function if Maori are in the minority which is why the NZ government's land wars and wholesale confiscation were followed by massive immigration (and massive borrowing from which the state has never recovered).  If Maori ever become the majority, again, then amongst a host of cultural and language changes they will deconfiscate their whenua and the superstructure of land ownership will change.  This is normal in a decolonisation process (New Caledonia/Kanakia is an interesting example in the Pacific of a staged decol) but most NZers (incl. many Maori) do not view NZ as a colonial entity even though they cannot determine at what point "independence" happened and even though they may accept the individual elements of a settler/colonial regime still persist (but not the corollary that it functions as a whole system).

Over time, with mixed marriages, this transition will occur.  However that jeopardy to the settler system is kept in check by immigration.

As the European population's natural increase drops their government must find more non-Europeans to negate the higher birth rate (and longer life expectancies) of Maori. The Immigration reforms starting in 1987 was precisely the vehicle for that.  I am willing to bet that it was plus or minus three years from that date that this country reached the highest point of NZ-born population.  Despite this the Maori population managed to increase, slightly, as a proportion of the whole.  Now look where we are and wait for the results of the delayed census from earlier in the year to see if Maori have in fact gone backwards over the last seven years.  Then where will all the glib assertions about a Maori resurgence and a bi-cultural nation be?  Relegated to a permamnent minority in their own country with a government aim to keep it that way is where this leads.  Where will that leave the Treaty process?

Any future settlement with the NZ government should make it clear that they have forfeited their rights to immigration by flooding the country with so many foreigners in such a short period.  How can we resolve a constitutional conflict when one side is pumping 45,000 people - almost the size of an electorate - into the conflict zone each and every year?  They will fill the country with another amount the equivalent of the entire Maori population in the next 15-20 years and no one thinks this is an issue?