ACC fees dropping

August 6, 2014

The government is delivering a $480m reduction in ACC fees:

ACC Minister Judith Collins today announced reductions to motor vehicle levies in 2015/16 meaning the average New Zealand vehicle owner will be $135 better off each year.

“Earlier this year the Government signalled our intention to reduce ACC levies as part of Budget 2014 – today’s announcement delivers on this,” Ms Collins says.

“ACC continues to improve its financial situation, transforming the way it supports injured New Zealanders and building on its investment returns.”

In the last levy round significant reductions were made to the Work and Earners’ Accounts. This year’s focus is on reductions to the Motor Vehicle Account. The average levy will fall from around $330 to $195. This includes reductions to the licence fee and a drop of 3 cents per litre off the petrol levy.

In addition, the average levy paid by employers and self-employed people into the Work Account will fall to 90 cents per $100 of liable earnings, down from 95 cents.

“These reductions to Work and Motor Vehicle levies represent an annual saving of $480 million to New Zealand households and businesses in the 2015/16 levy year,” Ms Collins says.

“This year’s reductions, which come on top of reductions over recent years, have meant that New Zealand households and businesses will keep almost $1.5 billion, since 2011/12.

“The Government will also introduce risk rating for light passenger vehicles (cars). This will place vehicles into bands, based on their crash safety ratings, from most safe to least safe and charge each band a levy based on the cost to the scheme of different vehicles.

Pricing based on safety ratings matches the costs with the risks.

“While all vehicle owners will receive considerable reductions in their ACC levies, we want to ensure the amount people are paying reflects the cost to the Scheme.”

As an example, the introduction of risk rating for cars, together with the overall reduction of motor vehicle levies, owners of petrol-driven cars in the safest grouping will see the ACC component of their annual vehicle licence fee fall by 66 per cent.

Ms Collins says while the Government remains on track for further levy cuts across all accounts in 2016/17, it’s important levies continue to be set in a way that is fair, fiscally responsible and maintains ACC’s ability to fund entitlements in the future.

“We are working through the exact amounts and timing of those levy reductions and a review of the residual levy – whose role is effectively completed – is part of that consideration,” Ms Collins says.

The new ACC levy rates for motor vehicles will come into effect on 1 July 2015. The lower Work Account levy rate takes effect on 1 April 2015.

 

Today we announced $480 million in levy cuts for 2015/16 which will include the average motor vehicle registration being $135 cheaper from July next year. This is wonderful news for households and businesses and is a testament to ACC’s fantastic performance. Well done! http://www.beehive.govt.nz/release/government-delivers-480-million-reduction-acc-levies


Must not ignore nor accept family violence

July 3, 2014

Prime Minister John Key has announced a suite of measures aimed at addressing family violence.

“Quite simply, the rate of family violence in New Zealand is unacceptable,” says Mr Key.

While crime is at a 35-year low, violent crime is decreasing at a much slower rate.

“Almost 50 per cent of all homicides in New Zealand are a result of family violence. That is, on average, 14 women, seven men, and eight children killed by a member of their family every year.”

Mr Key says together with the Government’s focus on vulnerable children, this work will help New Zealand families live without violence and fear.

“Firstly, Tariana Turia has released the Government’s response to the Expert Advisory Group’s report on Family Violence. Of the 22 recommendations in the report, 19 have been accepted in whole or part by the Government, and I thank the Advisory Group members for their work.

“Mrs Turia is building on the work of the Expert Advisory Group to develop a comprehensive, long-term approach to break the cycle of family violence. This work focuses on changing attitudes and behaviours towards family violence, and on early interventions for drug and alcohol addiction.

“Today I am also announcing further measures to address family violence through Justice, Police and Corrections, which will build on the foundation we have laid in place.”

These include:

  • The establishment of a Chief Victims’ Advisor to the Minister of Justice
  • The trial of an intensive case management service for family violence victims at risk of serious harm or death
  • The trial of mobile safety alarms with GPS technology, so victims can alert police to their location in an emergency
  • Introduction of legislation to change the Sentencing Act, which will allow courts to stipulate GPS monitoring of high-risk domestic violence offenders who can’t currently have this condition imposed on them.

“I would like to thank Ministers Judith Collins, Anne Tolley and Tariana Turia for leading the work to foster a long-term change in behaviour, and to protect people from the misery of violence in the home,” says Mr Key.

“This Government has already undertaken a range of work to protect the most vulnerable New Zealanders.

“A great example of this is the recent passing of the Vulnerable Children’s Bill, which ensures that New Zealand’s most at-risk children get priority,” says Mr Key.

The new law provides 10 new Children’s Teams to wrap services around at-risk children early to keep them safe from harm, introduces new vetting and screening checks for government and community agency staff working with children, and puts the onus on parents who have killed, severely abused or neglected a child to prove they are safe to parent subsequent children.

“We have also increased the penalty for breaching protection orders and improved non-violence programmes for offenders,” says Mr Key

“However, it is important to remember that while governments can make laws, it is up to us as individual New Zealanders to change our attitudes to family violence.

“It is time we learned we must not ignore it, nor should we accept it,” says Mr Key.

 

New Zealand families should not have to live with violence and fear. We’re taking practical steps to address this. https://www.national.org.nz/news/features/protecting-families

Groups working with vulnerable children are supportive of the initiative:

The Red Raincoat Trust says the Chief Victims Advisor will give victims a voice:

The Red Raincoat Trust is delighted to hear of Justice Minister, Judith Collin’s plans to appoint a Chief Victims Advisor. “We are rapt; victims will now have an official voice within the criminal justice process. A Chief Victims Advisor will be able to engage directly with the victims enabling them to understand how the criminal justice process works for them. Until now, this hasn’t happened which often left victims vulnerable and re-victimised” says Debbie Marlow, spokesperson for the Red Raincoat Trust.

Ministers Judith Collins and Anne Tolley announced the Chief Victims Advisor today as part of a package which is hoped will help prevent family violence. Other initiatives announced today include an intensive case management service to provide specialist support for domestic violence victims at high risk of serious harm or death and a multi-agency response system for domestic violence.

“The package announced today will help ensure our families and communities are kept safe and it shows us that this government is committed to ensuring that our victim’s voices are heard and agencies are responding to their needs. Well done!”.

The Sensible Sentencing Trust is also supportive:

The Sensible Sentencing Trust has congratulated the Justice Minister, Judith Collins on today’s announcement regarding the establishment of the Chief Victims Advisor.

“Finally victims of crime will be afforded the true advocacy and support that they are entitled to” says Ruth Money Sensible Sentencing Trust.

We have been actively promoting the concept of victim advocacy for years now and this proposed position will go a long way to balancing victims’ rights within the system and ensuring that the Ministry of Justice stays informed regarding the needs of victims” says Money. . . .

“These moves and proactive measures from Minister Collins and the Government must be applauded. For too long the system has seen the rights of the offender or alleged offender come well before those of the victim and public safety, today we see some balance being proposed”

The Family Violence Death Review Committee (FVDRC) welcomes announcements about the trial of an intensive case management service for family violence victims.

The FVDRC is an independent committee that advises the Health Quality & Safety Commission on how to reduce the number of family violence deaths and prevent family violence. Last week it released a report analysing data collected on all family violence homicides that took place over a four-year period. The Committee urged organisations to take more responsibility for preventing abusers from using violence, rather than expecting the victims of family violence to take action to keep themselves and their children safe.

The Chair of the FVDRC, Associate Professor of Law Julia Tolmie, says the Committee’s previous report recommended the development of a nationally consistent high-risk case management process and it is pleasing to see this is being trialled.

“The sheer volume of police call outs for family violence often means the most dangerous cases of family violence do not get the attention they need within the systems we currently have,” she says.

“The aim of an intensive case management service is to bring the key agencies together to share information, as well as to develop, implement and monitor a multi-agency safety plan.”

Julia Tolmie says high-risk case management teams overseas have been highly successful in preventing deaths from family violence. . .

The FVDRC also supports the trial of mobile safety alarms with GPS technology, so victims can alert police to their location in an emergency and the introduction of legislation to change the Sentencing Act, which will allow courts to stipulate GPS monitoring of high-risk domestic violence offenders who can’t currently have this condition imposed on them.

The measures announce deal with reported crime.

Not all abuse and neglect is reported and some isn’t reported until it’s too late.

It is equally important to address the causes of abuse and neglect to prevent them.

The seriousness of the problem is shown by For the Sake of our Children Trust in a 24-year snapshot of 58 deaths of children as a result of neglect or abuse.

It points to clear risk factors:

. . . Based on the 58 known cases listed, 51 cases identified child’s biological parents were NOT married. The perpetrator responsible for the death indicated 27 of the deaths tabulated had a ‘stepfather’ or ‘boyfriend/partner of the mother being responsible or part responsible for the child’s death. The remaining figures for the perpetrator was indicated the mother or relative of the child or unknown.  . . .

Apropos of this, Lindsay Mitchell notes this is a fair assumption given that around 87 percent of children who have contact with CYF appear in the benefit system very early in their lives.

The benefit system has a place as a safety net, but it can also be a trap which increases the chances of poorer outcomes for children, including increasing the risk of abuse and neglect.

Moving families from welfare to work has obvious financial benefits for them and the country.

The social benefits are equally important. they include better educational and health outcomes and a lower risk of neglect and abuse.


113 breaches referred 0 prosecutions?

July 2, 2014

The Electoral Commission has referred 113 breaches of the electoral Act to police in the last three years and none has resulted in a prosecution:

Figures supplied by the Electoral Commission reveal 113 cases have been referred to police for investigation since the beginning of 2011 – not one has resulted in a prosecution.

Daljit Singh, a Labour Party candidate in Auckland’s first Super City elections, was convicted of electoral fraud earlier this year but the actions on which the charge of electoral fraud were based  took place more than three years ago.

Back to the original story:

It’s a figure Justice Minister Judith Collins wasn’t aware of.

Ms Collins doesn’t know the basis on which the Electoral Commission referred the cases to police, and says it’s something she’d have to find out more about before she could express an opinion.

While surprised at the figure, Ms Collins remains critical of opposition party calls for the Electoral Commission to be given the power to prosecute breaches of electoral laws.

“That would be an interesting situation since as I recall it’s mostly their parties that are actually responsible for most of the breaches, but that would be very interesting. That would be turkeys voting for an early Christmas wouldn’t it.” . . .

It would be very interesting and that might not be the answer.

But all those referrals and not a single prosecution is a very strong indication that the system is broken and needs to be fixed.

Alleged breaches need to be taken seriously and dealt with quickly – preferably before the election which might be affected by them.


Balancing victims’ rights

June 28, 2014

Victims of serious violent and sexual crimes will be better protected by a new order to help prevent their offender from contacting them, Justice Minister Judith Collins says.

The Victims’ Orders Against Violent Offenders Bill, which passed its final reading today, creates a ‘non-contact order’ to reduce the risk of unwanted contact between victims and their offender.

“Victims of serious crime deserve peace of mind, so they can recover and move on with their lives,” Ms Collins says.

“This Government has made perfectly clear its commitment to putting victims at the heart of our criminal justice system. Introducing these non-contact orders is one more way to ensure victims feel safe and protected from further offending.” 

The new orders can be applied to a person who has been sentenced to more than two years in prison for a specified violent or sexual offence. The orders may also prohibit the offender from contacting the victim in any way, including by electronic means. Where necessary, the orders may ban the offender from entering, living, or working in a particular area.

Victims will be able to apply to the court for a non-contact order at any time after the offender has been sentenced.  An order can also cover an offender’s associates.

Ms Collins says the new orders reinforce the Government’s commitment to putting victims at the heart of the criminal justice system.

“The passage of this Bill supports this Government’s unrelenting commitment to putting victims first. We’re ensuring victims’ are protected and their voices in our criminal justice system remain strong.”

This measure tips the balance of justice in favour of victims.

We’re delivering on our commitment to put victims at the heart of our criminal justice system by protecting them from further offending. https://www.national.org.nz/news/news/media-releases/detail/2014/06/24/new-orders-will-protect-and-make-victims-strong


Politics Daily

June 10, 2014

IMF report

Bill English – IMF report backs NZ’s economic progress

TV3 – NZ given tick by IMF

Jonathan Underhill @ NBR – China slowdown, weaker commodity prices, drop in house prices biggest risks to NZ: IMF

Manufacturing

Inventory 2 @ Keeping Stock – Manufacturing still in crisis. Yeah right.

Cameron Slater @ Whale Oil – Labour’s Manufacturing Crisis just keeps crisising along

Beehive

Bill English & Steven Joyce – Business Growth Agenda boosting investment, jobs & growth

Steven Joyce – Encouraging sole parents into higher study

Murray McCully - Whaling comments “worrying”

Judith Collins – New MOU signed to improve family justice

Craig Foss – Going Digital on time and under budget

Quake Court

Kloe Palmer @ TV3 - National: Labour’s quake court poorly considered

Mike Hosking @ NewstalkZB – Issues with Earthquake Court plan

The Press - Labour’s bold Canterbury policy

Derek Cheng @ NZ Herald –  Insurance Council rejects Labour’s ‘Earthquake Court’

Election

Inventory 2 @ Keeping Stock – Tweet of the Day – 10 June 2014

Scrubone @ Something Should Go Here Maybe Later - Reminder all politicians play games

Phil Quin @ Pundit – How Internet Mana could help National reach 50%

Patrick Leyland @ The NZ Progress Report - NZ Facebook pages

Pete George @ Your NZ – Craig’s Conservatives cold shouldered

Peter Cullen @ Stuff Fixed-term payouts when ministers gets marched

Pattrick Smellie @ NBR – Coat-tail deals ‘a few weeks away’, says Key

Lew @ Kiwi Politico – Doubloons

Peter George @ Your NZ – Green election prospects

Cameron Slater @ Whale Oil – Green Hypocrisy on Coat-tailing and strategic voting

Cameron Slater @ Whale Oil – More trouble amongst the alliance partners

Cameron Slater @ Whale Oil – A reader emails about the so-called “missing million”

Dominion Post – Nats don’t need another tea party

Campaign funding

Stacey Kirk @ – Campaign funding allocations ‘unfair

Taxpayers’ Union – Civilian Party Surely Playing Practical Joke

Hannah Herchenbach@ The Press – Civilian Party leader: Criticism ‘dishonest’

Electoral Prosecutions

David Farrar @ Kiwiblog – Police electoral prosecutions

NZ Herald – Investigation into police needed over Banks case

The Press –  Banks faces political reality

Bryce Edwards @ NBR – NZ POLITICS DAILY: The impact of John Banks on the election campaign

Liam Hehir @ Manawatu Standard – Redemption never impossible

Labour

Chris Trotter @ Bowalley Road – Labour’s Caucus Still In Charge

David Farrar @ Kiwiblog – Smith on Labour

Cameron Slater @ Whale Oil – Mike Smith – On Labour’s Mantra of Misery

IMP

Inventory 2 @ Keeping Stock – Cash for credibility

Other

ACT – The Letter

Cameron Slater @ Whale Oil – ACT’s Letter on Banks and Hone

Cameron Slater @ Whale Oil – Uh oh, the Greens aren’t buying Cunliffe’s dog whistle either

Dominion Post - Today in Politics Tuesday June 10

Matthew Beveridge – Tweet MPs

ODT – Fraction too much friction

David Farrar @ Kwiblog – NZ Public poll methodologies

Dominion Post – Today in Politics: Tuesday, June 10


Compulsion not democratic

May 30, 2014

Justice Minister Judith Collins says compulsory voting doesn’t feel democratic:

Justice Minister Judith Collins has dismissed the idea of making voting compulsory in order to get people to the ballot box.

Speaking at a conference at Parliament on improving voter turnout on Thursday, Ms Collins said she wasn’t keen on following Australia’s example to compel people to enrol and vote.

“It doesn’t feel democratic to me to do that. It feels democratic to me and part of our Kiwi ethos that we can’t force someone to want to vote.”

Quite.

If we’re free to vote we must also be free to not vote.

Ms Collins said she would prefer to encourage people to vote by telling them why it’s important to use their democratic voice. . .

Education is a much better way than compulsion to encourage not just voting but informed voting.


Crime rate lowest since ’78

April 30, 2014

New Zealand’s crime rate is at the lowest level since 1978.

Justice Minister Judith Collins explains some of the initiatives which have helped that:

The Prime Minister mentioned the approach the Government took from 2008 – strengthening penalties for the worst offenders; focusing on the underlying drivers of crime and better rehabilitating offenders; and ensuring the justice system better helped those people who were victims of crime. 

There has been a vast amount of legislative change. We have, for example, strengthened bail laws; given police greater powers to tackle serious crime; and brought in alcohol reforms that give local communities the option of having tailored alcohol regulations that tackle local alcohol related issues.

But there has been just as much practical, operational, and even attitudinal change. 

The Government introduced Better Public Services, or BPS, targets in 2012 for key public services that would make a real difference for New Zealanders. They were also used to drive a sectoral approach to issues that require broader, long-term and multi-agency responses.

The Justice sector – the main agencies being the Ministry of Justice, NZ Police and the Department of Corrections – set ambitious targets for reducing the rates of total crime, violent crime, youth crime, and reoffending by 2017.

This focus is supported by a justice sector fund – an innovation for this government – that allows justice agencies to collectively share savings and put money where it will have the best effect.

The sector produced a results plan that included 60 new actions as well as building on major initiatives already underway. The plan is being updated this year, and I’m sure there will be some ideas from today that will be incorporated.

The actions range from the big – like ‘Policing Excellence’ with its emphasis on crime prevention, and expanding the range of training and rehabilitation programmes on offer to prisoners – through to smaller initiatives like trialling New Zealand’s first drug and alcohol courts, and providing a range of government, justice and community services starting in the Hutt Valley, from a mobile office in a van.

All of our initiatives however are about reducing crime and improving frontline results and services for people.

A fantastic example of this is the Hutt Valley Innovation Project, which targets local issues by improving the co-ordination of frontline services across the agencies in the area. During 2013, while this project was in its trial period, violent crime in the Hutt Valley dropped by a remarkable 10 per cent. That model is now being rolled out to three other areas. 

As for results, yesterday I announced the latest BPS results – to December 2013. Our target was to see a 15% reduction in the overall crime rate by 2017. As at December, it was down 14% – we’re almost there and with 3 years to go! As well as this, the violent crime rate was down 10 per cent, overall re-offending down by 11.7 per cent and the youth crime rate has reduced by 27 per cent.

To put real numbers around this, remembering New Zealand’s population is about 4.5 million, the results mean New Zealanders are now experiencing around 56,000 fewer crimes annually than in 2011. 

This is a lot less people becoming victims of crime.

This is a huge achievement.

Setting Better Public Service goals provides a real target against which success or failure can be measured.

A 14% reduction in the crime rate by the end of 2013 is well on the way to the target of a 15% reduction by 2017.

 

Photo: National will keep working to reduce crime and stand up for victims. http://bit.ly/1nYt6dG


Wrong side of the line

March 23, 2014

Opposition parties have to tread a fine line between attacks aimed at the government and those which could damage anyone, and anything, caught in the crossfire.

Has Labour got on the wrong side of the line with their on-going fuss over Judith Collins and Oravida while Prime Minsiter John Key ahs been in China?

But the Opposition has been determined to try to ensure Key does not get to politically bank the positives from the deepening bilateral relationship.

This is a mistake, especially given Labour’s own groundbreaking role in forging bilateral ties with China.

Helen Clark – with her profound understanding of international politics and intuitive approach to cementing deals with political leaders of a vastly different ideological mindset – played the diplomatic pathfinder role.

It was Clark’s Government that took the political risk of hurting New Zealand’s relationship with that other great power, the United States, by making significant concessions over China’s “market economy status” to negotiate the free trade deal. Clark Government ministers Phil Goff and Jim Sutton were at the cutting edge. Their negotiations enjoyed bilateral support from then Opposition trade spokesman Tim Groser.

It is a great pity that this “New Zealand Inc” approach has now been deliberately thrown out the window by Opposition politicians out to make domestic political advantage in election year. . .

National and Labour used to have a fair degree of consensus over trade and its importance. In the past week Labour has put political opportunism first.

New Zealand exporters were pleased Key was able to make time after his Xi dinner for photo opportunities with their Chinese clients at Wednesday night’s Celebration of Dairy dinner.

The event kicked on – as they tend to – elsewhere at the Four Seasons hotel and in various nightspots around Beijing.

Here’s the thing: New Zealand exporters are scathing of the Opposition’s timing of the Oravida revelations. Beijing expats retain deep suspicions that in the first place, some “low-level” Foreign Affairs official leaked details of Cabinet minister Judith Collins’ off-schedule meetings with Stone Shi’s Oravida in October, and that the Opposition sat on the issue until the eve of the Prime Minister’s China trip to inflict maximum political damage while he was overseas.

Political foes might be fair game but exporters are not and this timing looks suspiciously like it wasn’t a coincidence.

The upshot is that, yet again, a positive diplomatic foray by Key has been overshadowed by domestic politics.

Collins’ links with the company of which her husband is a director needs to be examined.

But Labour’s decision to rain on Key’s parade is not only short-sighted but mean-spirited.

If Labour wins the next election it will be the beneficiary of Key’s China-related diplomacy in the same way that the Prime Minister has benefited from Clark’s visionary moves.

Reflect on that.

There’s not just political benefits for whichever parties are in government after the election, there’s trade gains to be made with the economic and social gains that come from that which political opportunism from the opposition could have derailed.


Respect’s the key

March 22, 2014

ACC Minister Judith Collins says respect is the key to tackling sexual violence.

She was announcing a new school-based pilot project funded by the Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) as part of its new focus on preventing sexual violence.

“Sexual violence has a significant effect on victims and families, resulting in substantial physical and mental health issues as well as social problems like poverty, addiction and suicide,” Ms Collins says.

“Encouraging a culture of respect is one of the most effective ways we can help to prevent sexual and dating violence. This pilot programme will teach young people the value of having healthy relationships based on respect, negotiation and consent.”

Recently ACC has made sexual violence prevention part of its core business focus and its first initiative in this area is a school-based pilot programme focussed on fostering healthy and respectful relationships.

In 2012/13, ACC spent $44 million on services for about 15,000 sensitive claims – the majority of which are related to sexual violence.

“There is some great work already being done by the sexual violence sector in schools but there is also recognition that we need to ensure these programmes have better national coordination, are consistent in content and ensure the best coverage possible,” Ms Collins says.

The school based programme is being developed with an Advisory Group made up of sexual violence sector representatives, interested community groups, government agencies and specialist academics, with input from students, parents and teachers. The programme will be a part of a wider programme of work led by Social Development Minister Paula Bennett.

The programme is still in its early stages of development and there will be further announcements on the specific content, providers, and schools that will be piloted in the third school term this year.

This programme will have to work hard to combat the many media messages which teach people to neither respect themselves nor others.

It is designed to help prevent violence. Legislation is also underway to protect people after a crime has been committed with a Bill creating a new order to protect victims of serious violent and sexual offences passing its second reading in Parliament this week.

Justice Minister Judith Collins says the Victims’ Orders Against Violent Offenders Bill creates a new non-contact order to help reduce the likelihood of serious violent and sexual offenders coming into contact with their victims.

“This Government has made perfectly clear its commitment to putting victims at the heart of our criminal justice system. This Bill is one more way to ensure victims feel safe and protected from further offending,” Ms Collins says. 

The order would prohibit the offender from contacting the victim in any way and could ban the offender from living, or working in a particular area.

“This Bill recognises that victims are forced to relive these serious ordeals and suffer on-going effects when they come into contact with their offenders. The proposed new order will help to safeguard and give peace of mind to victims and where necessary, place more restrictive conditions on an offender.”

The provisions added to the Bill today include:

  • orders can be applied to a person who has been sentenced to more than two years in prison for a specified violent or sexual offence (rather than the five year threshold proposed in the original Bill)
  • non-contact orders can be extended to cover an offender’s associates, where the offender encourages the associate to engage in prohibited behaviour that would harm the victim’s recovery
  • victims can apply for an order at any time after sentencing.

Ms Collins acknowledges the Law and Order Committee and thanked those who made submissions on the Bill.

The Government expects to pass the Victims’ Orders Against Violent Offenders Bill by the end of 2014.

Photo: National is delivering on its promise to put victims at the heart of our justice system - www.national.org.nz/Article.aspx?articleId=43384


Another poll confirms the trend

March 18, 2014

Support for he Labour Party is below 30% in the latest Herald DigiPoll survey:

Labour’s support has sunk nearly six points and it is polling only 29.5 per cent in the Herald-DigiPoll survey.

The popularity of leader David Cunliffe has fallen by almost the same amount, to 11.1 per cent. That is worse than the 12.4 per cent worst rating of former leader David Shearer.

National could govern alone with 50.8 per cent if the poll were translated to an election result.

The popularity of John Key as Prime Minister has climbed by 4.6 points to 66.5 per cent. That is his best rating since the election but not as high as he reached in his first term when he often rated more than 70 against Phil Goff.

The increases in support for National and the Greens since December put them at their highest ratings since the 2011 election.

The Greens are up 2.3 points to 13.1 per cent and with Labour would muster a combined 42.6 per cent.

New Zealand First is down slightly to 3.6 per cent but leader Winston Peters’ ratings as preferred Prime Minister at 6.5 per cent suggest the party could still top the 5 per cent threshold required to get MPs under MMP without requiring an electorate seat.

Other polls have shown a decline in Labour’s fortunes this year but today’s is the first to have Labour in the 20s since Mr Cunliffe took over the leadership from Mr Shearer in September last year. . .

Polling began on March 6, in the midst of the fallout over his use of trusts for donations.

But it continued through last week when Mr Key condemned minister Judith Collins for her failure to declare a dinner in Beijing with her husband’s business associates. . . .

The last fortnight was dire for Labour and last week wasn’t good for National, but maybe it’s only political tragics who are really interested in these issues.

Mr Key said the poll was a confirmation that a majority of New Zealanders believe the country is heading in the right direction “but clearly there is a lot more work to be done if we are to create the jobs and increase the living standards that New Zealanders want to see”. . . 

Asked if the issue of Mr Cunliffe’s of Ms Collins non-declarations would have affected the poll, he said: “Voters weigh up a great many factors when considering who to support but I continue to believe the strongest motivation is when a political party is focused on the issues that really matter to voters.” . . .

Individual polls bounce around but this one confirms the trend which shows National and its leader are popular, Labour and its leader aren’t.

There’s just six months until the election.

That’s time enough for National to slip a few points and make it difficult to form a coalition.

But it’s not a lot of time for Labour to climb out of the doldrums and convince voters it could offer good governance and stability with the collection of support parties it would need.


Explosion or erosion

March 13, 2014

Yesterday morning Chris Trotter called the election for National unless something hugely dramatic happens between now and polling day.

In the afternoon Justice Minister Judith Collins had to apologise for not being as open as she should have been about her trip to China.

This morning, the Reserve Bank  is expected to announce an increase in the Official Cash Rate which will lead to an increase in interest rates.

That won’t come as any surprise when the OCR has been at a record low of 2.5% since March 2011.

It will be welcomed by those who get income from interest-bearing investments. It won’t be appreciated by the many more who have mortgages, even though interest rates will still be well below the 11% we were paying when Labour lost the 2008 election.

Neither of these are hugely dramatic and are unlikely by themselves to have much impact on the polls when Labour continues to be divided internally and confused about which coalition partners it would choose.

The odds still favour National, but when even a day can make a big difference, six months is time for an even bigger one.

Erosion over time can do as much damage as an explosion.


What matters

February 25, 2014

While sideshows get attention, what really matters are the basics: the economy, education, health, welfare and security.

An important ingredient in personal security is a low crime rate and the news on that is improving:

Crime and reoffending continues to fall according to the latest progress report on Better Public Service (BPS) to September 2013, Justice Minister Judith Collins announced today.

“Increased collaboration between the Ministry of Justice, Police, Corrections and Courts means the Justice sector is making excellent progress and is well on track to meet, and even exceed its targets by 2017,” Ms Collins says.

“Since June 2011, the total crime rate has fallen 13 per cent, the violent crime rate has fallen 9 per cent, the youth crime rate has fallen 22 per cent and the reoffending rate is down 11.4 per cent.

“Crime is at a 33 year low and we have the opportunity to keep doing what works and finding new and innovative ways to prevent crime from occurring in the first place.”

BPS targets for the justice sector are to reduce the total recorded crime rate by 15 per cent, the recorded violent crime rate by 20 per cent and the youth crime and re-offending rate by 25 per cent by 2017.

Ms Collins says the sector is also continuing efforts to strengthen support for victims of crime to make sure they remain at the heart of our justice system.

“We’ve embarked on a comprehensive programme of reform to protect communities, prevent crime, and put victims first, with levies on offenders, new laws, and new services for victims,” Ms Collins says.

“We’re staying tough on criminals, keeping record numbers of Police on the beat, and ensuring the justice system focuses on the rights of victims and is more accessible for those who need to use it.”

Today’s results show that in the year to September 2013, 51,553 fewer recorded crimes have been experienced by New Zealanders than in the year to June 2011.

Ms Collins acknowledges the Ministry of Justice, Police and Corrections and her Justice sector ministerial colleagues for their continued commitment to making New Zealand safe.

Better Public Service (BPS) graphic 1
Better Public Service (BPS) graphic 1
Better Public Service (BPS) graphic 2

There are both social and economic benefits to crime reduction.

Fewer crimes means fewer victims, fewer people in prison, more people engaged meaningfully in society and less money spent on detection, prosecution and punishment.

It also means a better quality of life, people who feel safer are freer.

Friends visiting from Argentina kept saying how much they enjoyed being in a house without bars on its windows and being able to walk down the street without being in fear of pick-pockets.


Cosy deal continuing to end of year

January 15, 2014

The Taxpayers’ Union blew the whistle on the $19m wasted on contracts for workplace safety training:

Material released by the Taxpayers’ Union show a cosy deal between Business New Zealand, the Council of Trade Unions (“CTU”) and ACC has cost ACC-levy payers $19 million since 2003.

The documents, available and summarised below show ACC knew that millions paid to Business NZ and the CTU to provide health and safety training did little, if anything, to reduce workplace accidents.

Recent ACC analysis concludes that, even with optimistic assumptions, for every dollar spent on the training 84 cents is wasted. 

A 2013 briefing to the Minister for ACC, Judith Collins, states that the CTU has found it “challenging” to meet its performance obligations even though it has been contracted for service since 2003. 

The documents show that Business NZ and the CTU worked together with ACC to create the venture and doubts about the value of the scheme have existed since at least 2008.

It appears that Business NZ and the CTU have created a nice little earner for themselves. But we think it’s a disgraceful example of big corporate and union welfare chewing through taxpayer cash. We think members of Business NZ and the CTU should be asking hard questions of their respective management teams.

Even the report in 2008 shows that that whole scheme was achieving little more than ‘engagement’. While ACC, Business NZ and the CTU must have known the scheme was worthless, they all allowed further millions to be spent.

This is the worst example of government waste the Taxpayers’ Union has seen to date. It involves two quasi-political organisations from the left and the right complacent in receiving taxpayer funds, likely knowing that the benefit was a small fraction of the amount being spent.

The Taxpayers’ Union is calling on Ms Collins to put an end to this hand out to Business NZ and the CTU.

ACC Minister Judith Collins says this has all the markings of a taxpayer rort:

. . . Ms Collins told Radio New Zealand’s Summer Report programme on Wednesday the scheme is clearly not working and she does not intend to waste more money on it by taking further action, since the contracts are unlikely to be renewed.

The minister said the programme looked like a very cosy deal set up in 2003, leaving the people it aimed to help with nothing.

“I think it’s pretty clear what happened and the review that’s been undertaken by ACC has already shown that it has been a waste of money,” she said.

“I actually think it has all the hallmarks of a rort.” . . .

There’s nothing new in cosy deals which give unions public funds for programmes which may or may not be value for money.

Business New Zealand members should be asking very serious questions of the organisation to find out why it too has been wasting money in this way.

Yesterday it looked like ACC was canning the scheme but today the Taxpayers’ Union says the schemes have been extended to the end of this year.

Despite the ACC telling media yesterday that it decided ‘late last year’ to can the programme, we learned this morning that the contracts were renewed in December. The end date is now 31 December 2014.

It appears that ACC only changed its tune since the Taxpayers’ Union publicly exposed the rort.

Remember, it’s not the Taxpayers’ Union who labelled the training scheme a waste of money, it’s ACC’s own experts. Telling the public that they will scrap the scheme but waiting for the new contracts to expire is not good enough. They conveniently failed to mention that the contracts have just been renewed…

The Taxpayers’ Union is also backing the Minister for ACC’s reported comments that Business NZ and the CTU should pay the wasted money back to ACC. With such clear evidence that the money did little if anything to improve workplace safety, we think Business NZ and the CTU are morally obliged to stop wasting this money and compensate ACC levy payers.

ACC fees are being reduced for most workers and businesses.

If it wasn’t wasting money on useless training it might be able to make further cuts.

Workplace safety is a serious business, it shouldn’t be a vehicle for a rort by unions and the group which is supposed to work in businesses’ best interests.


Quotes of the year

December 31, 2013

“It was probably a classic example of me probably being too much army, and not enough prince. . . “ Prince Harry.

. . . Whether it is in sport, business, agriculture, the arts, science and the creative industries, or in international fora such as peacekeeping, New Zealanders have repeatedly shown their talent, tenacity, flair and commitment.

That legacy of the new way of doing things was well put by New Zealander and Saatchi and Saatchi worldwide chief executive Kevin Roberts a few years ago when he said: “We were the last to be discovered and the first to see the light. This makes us one of the great experimental cultures. We try things first. Whether it’s votes for women, the welfare state or the market economy, powered flight, nuclear physics, anti-nuclearism, biculturalism. First-isms. The New in New Zealand is our reason to exist.” Lt Gen The Rt Hon Sir Jerry Mateparae.

”I like to cook meat, except for chicken. To me chicken’s like a ladies’ meat, so it’s more of a vegetable.” Jonny Trevathan, Master Chef entrant.

By 1984 the economy was in a mess, and I hope history will record more positively the decisive actions of both the Lange-Douglas Labour Government and the Bolger-Richardson National Government that followed. The resilience of the New Zealand economy during the recent global downturn owes much to the courage of those Cabinets, at least in their early years, putting New Zealand’s very real needs ahead of political considerations in pursuing necessary reform. – Lockwood Smith

As a former Commonwealth Scholar in Science, I have often regretted that I never got involved in that area during my time here. Science and technology have been so crucial to the advancement of human well-being, yet scientists are a rare breed in politics. Internationally, there is something of a disconnect between the two. In politics, for example, green is the claimed colour of sustainability. Yet in science, the very reason we perceive plants to be green is that they reflect green light. They cannot use it. It is red and blue light that sustain most of our living world. Lockwood Smith

Some commentators assess members on how successfully they play the political game. But to me what sets a member of Parliament apart is how much they care about the impact of the State on an ordinary person, and how far they are prepared to go in representing people whose lives can be so knocked around by the actions of the State. Lockwood Smith

This House, in so many ways, has become a place of political parties rather than a House of Representatives. I am not for one moment trying to make a case for the old system, but I do believe there will come a time when we will need to re-examine that balance of accountabilities. Representation is enhanced when members have to help ordinary people in their local communities, many of whom may never have voted for them. Lockwood Smith.

We aren’t scientists we are farmers, we choose not to debate the science but work hard to deal with changing weather patterns. Bruce Wills.

Anyway, credit where credit is due. The Labour Party has finally adopted one of the very sensible policies of the National Government, and that is the mixed-ownership model. That is right. These days, the Labour Party is 51 percent owned by Labour and 49 percent owned by the Greens. Yes, these two parties have come together in this happy little place, where fruit meets loop. John Key.

. . . Kids who read stay out of jail (unless they grow up to be financial investment directors). Reading gives them words. Words give them the ability to express and clarify themselves to others. How many young guys end up in strife because they don’t have the vocab to explain what they’re doing, and so they move from incoherence to frustration to violence?

Reading helps young people come to terms with themselves and their issues. . .  David Hill

“Oh my god, another cross to bear,” Tim Shadbolt on being told  he was the most trusted mayor in the country in a Readers Digest poll.

. . . The response that students gave to Christchurch is phenomenal, and it only was thanks to a really strong team of people who all were able to bring their individual skills to something.  . . .  just like young people right around New Zealand – all specialising in different areas, focusing on what they’re good at, being willing to be wrong, being willing to ask for help and fundamentally believing that change is possible, that you can look at things in a different way, no matter what level of society you’re on.  It’s our philosophy – the skill of the unskilled.  I sit at a lot of conferences, and I’m the only one without a PhD, but we say, ‘What about this idea?  What about this idea?  Where are we going?  Are we fundamentally doing things that are right and taking our country and world in a good direction?’ . . .Sam Johnson

. . . You know, Christchurch is still in a position that it’s hard there for a lot of people, but it’s also— the group of people that I am with every day through Volunteer Army Foundation, the Ministry of Awesome, we are— we love Christchurch, and you couldn’t pay us to move anywhere else, because of the innovation, the excitement.  You know, population numbers are up in Christchurch, and we are going to be a— it’s a strong place to be. . .  Sam Johnson

. . . I focus on doing things that I love.  I focus on surrounding myself with people much more intelligent than myself and people who can really make things happen, building strong teams.  I think that’s the philosophy we take in Christchurch.  We specialise in different areas with what we’re good at and focus on that. Sam Johnson

One witness was asked to identify an accused by describing the man’s tattoos. I applauded his response. “I can’t really describe his tattoos. They were a load of rubbish. They looked like the graffiti on a public dunny wall.” District Court Judge Russell Callander

“You’ve got to have a reason for getting up in the morning and I firmly believe retirement has killed more farmers than farming.” – Ted Ford

A Government should not be relied upon to create jobs. To bolster our economy and growth, we need the private sector to be creating jobs in the tradeables sector.

Whether they are high-earning export roles, or an entry level company, it is the job of entrepreneurs. Government’s role is to put in place the right conditions for economic growth, so companies can feel comfortable about expanding, growing, or just starting out in the business world.

Local government also has a role, through having plans for economic growth and development that encourage businesses and don’t stifle their creativity. Eric Roy

Politics is a two-stage process: first you’re sworn in, then, inevitably, eventually, you’re sworn at. Denis Welch.

There is rarely any danger of overestimating Labour Party stupidity. Having described myself recently as ‘a sentimental socialist’, I’m inclined to think that sentiment may be the main, and possibly the only reason for my ongoing belief in an organism genetically predisposed to push the self-destruct button when faced with the slightest glimmer of electoral success. . .   Brian Edwards.

. . . within 48 hours it looks very much to us as if it is just another David, another day, and another step to the left, as we see the disloyalty in the Labour caucus slowly beginning to foment. Gerry Brownlee.

But now, of course, under the new leader of the Labour Party, the pledge card, like his CV, will be a living document—kind of like the Treaty but without the principles.Bill English

“We were given opportunities in Mangere. Education unlocks opportunities you would not otherwise have.” – Sam Lotu-Iiga MP

The big, bad thing is that large parts of the Left have never faced up to the failure of socialism. The nicer Leftists, often very belatedly, deplored Stalin and Mao – the purges, the Gulags, the famines, the invasions. The more intelligent ones detected certain (let us put it gently) problems with state ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange. Yet when, in 1989, the Berlin Wall was knocked down by the citizens in whose name it had been erected, few could admit that this was a defeat for socialism as fundamental as that of Nazism in 1945. . . Charles Moore

Arts degrees are awesome. And they help you find meaning where there is none. And let me assure you, there is none. Don’t go looking for it. Searching for meaning is like searching for a rhyme scheme in a cookbook: you won’t find it and you’ll bugger up your soufflé. Tim Minchin

We must think critically, and not just about the ideas of others. Be hard on your beliefs. Take them out onto the verandah and beat them with a cricket bat.
Be intellectually rigorous. Identify your biases, your prejudices, your privilege.

Most of society’s arguments are kept alive by a failure to acknowledge nuance. We tend to generate false dichotomies, then try to argue one point using two entirely different sets of assumptions, like two tennis players trying to win a match by hitting beautifully executed shots from either end of separate tennis courts. Tim Minchin

Parliament applauded Eleanor Catton winning the Man Booker Prize for her book ‘The Luminaries’ when it resumed today.

Prime Minister John Key said the success should be celebrated by New Zealanders as much as they did sporting victories. Catton’s feat in becoming the youngest winner of the prize at 28, came as 16 year old Lorde topped the US charts with her music showing New Zealand was blessed with strong, creative young women. Parliament Today

“You guys have spent your careers trying to analyse what he says and you’ve got more sense out of the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party. He talks in riddles, he doesn’t stick to what he says, it’s a waste of time having discussions that are about a bottom line.

“There are no bottom lines with Winston Peters. He will do a deal with who he feels like doing a deal with.” John Key

Not so much a political honeymoon as a naughty weekend with the floating voters. – Vernon Small on David Cunliffe.

. . . Girls dress for other girls. They dress to fit in. They dress to be part of a group. They want to be respected and they want to be liked. They want to be beautiful. They dress to impress. They copy their celebrity idols. These might well be fashion crimes, but short skirts and cleavage don’t signal a willingness to be victimised.

New Zealand is internationally rated as one of the best countries to be a woman. This year, we celebrated 120 years of women winning the right to vote.

With that goes the right to not be abused. Judith Collins

. . . considering I’m probably in the 10% of New Zealanders who pay 70% of the tax, considering I’m a self-employed business owner with farming interests and considering I still bear the farming scars from some incredibly short-sighted, militant union behaviour in the 1970s and 80s, why would I vote Labour now?

There’s nothing for me in their policies of higher tax, greater environmental and economic handbrakes for farming and re-unionising the workforce. Farming Show host Jamie Mackay on Labour after its leader refused to appear on the show in case he was laughed at.

. . . For the farmer, the business person, the property owner, and the financial investor it’s all pretty straightforward. What’s in it for National’s electoral base is economic growth, low inflation, reduced taxation and a reasonable rate-of-return. What they’re not looking for is more economic regulation, higher taxes, rising prices or inflationary wage demands.

Getting the attention of those who feel that their stake in New Zealand society is much too meagre to matter is a considerably more daunting task. - Chris Trotter

There is a saying that you do not beat New Zealand – you just get more points than them at the final whistle. – Sir Ian McGeechan

“I don’t really believe in Great — insert a country — Novels,” she said. “I don’t see how you can reconcile that with diversity, and I think the diversity is the most important thing in any national literature.” Eleanor Catton

I knew it would never be about zeroes. I’m not a spreadsheet with hair; will never be. I am an artist, an author, with a hunger for showing people what I can do and a talent for making people turn my name into a call while they’re waiting front row. It’s me. I’m here. - Lorde

Imagine if Nelson Mandela was as angry as John Minto when he got out of prison” – Josie Pagani on ‘The Huddle

Beyond the All Blacks being unbeaten for a whole season, and Emirates Team New Zealand coming second in a two-boat race, what put New Zealand on the world’s front pages in 2013 was a novel, a song and a film. – Hamish Keith

It’s one of the oldest cliches in politics – that perception is reality. In other words, if enough of us are convinced that what we think we see is real, then it may as well be real. Even if it’s not. - Tim Watkins

I find it fascinating that if you dig a hole and plant a tree in it, you are a greenie; if you dig a big hole, take the gold out of the ground and plant a forest, suddenly you’re an eco-terrorist. There’s no consistency in that. – Colin Craig

“Tasmanian Devils are renowned for their big mouths, bad behaviour and noisiness, so they will fit in well with the nation’s politicians in the capital,” - Nick Smith

I totally disagree with it. If you’re going to earn money, you earn it. You’re given it by your productivity.” - Sir John Walker on the living wage.

Science is not a bunch of facts. Scientists are not people trying to be prescriptive or authoritative. Science is simply the word we use to describe a method of organising our curiosity. It’s easier, at a dinner party, to say ”science” than to say ”the incremental acquisition of understanding through observation, humbled by an acute awareness of our tendency towards bias”. Douglas Adams said: ”I’d take the awe of understanding over the awe of ignorance any day.”

Science is not the opposite of art, nor the opposite of spirituality – whatever that is – and you don’t have to deny scientific knowledge in order to make beautiful things. On the contrary, great science writing is the art of communicating that ”awe of understanding”, so that we readers can revel in the beauty of a deeper knowledge of our world. Tim Minchin

. . . Remember the Government’s $30 million cash injection to secure the immediate future of Tiwai Point?  That helped to protect 3,200 jobs and the smelter’s $1.6 billion annual contribution to the Southland economy. Dairying doesn’t need such support, but in 2009, it injected over $700 million into the Southland economy and employed over 2,300 people.  Dairying may not be number one here but we’re a pretty important second that’s become more important over the past four years. . . Russell MacPherson

All of us pay for some of us to indulge romantic dreams about trains or to feed fanciful beliefs that the government owns these “assets which are valuable”

This stuff is not silver its rust… the best performers can’t perform without laws which force revenue into their pockets, the worst performers are a receivers dream.

Genuine concern for the poor would not see government owning commercial assets. - Eye to the Long Run

. . . If from the time their children could read, parents had introduced them to newspapers, as certainly happened when I was young, rather than addiction to idiotic texting, they would, instead, be addicted to the world in all of its wide-ranging fascination and zaniness (the human factor), as delivered to us daily in the newspaper.

It’s a shame as nothing matches the daily newspaper for sheer stimulation, education, and entertainment value for money. Take a recent Dominion Post. First the pleasure of its crosswords and tussling over the wordgame, this after quickly scanning the front page for later reading. Each news item induced a full spectrum of emotions, from rage to delight, in the latter case from the splendid heading, “Mr Whippy frozen with fear by chainsaw wielding cross-dresser”. That alone was worth the price of the paper and was promptly dispatched to friends abroad. These texting obsessives don’t know what they’re missing. . .  –  Bob Jones

. . .  Seemingly the first duty on rising every morning for Remuerites is to go outside and rake up the $100 notes that have fallen like confetti on them overnight. It must be very tiresome.  . . Bob Jones

. . . But as you go through life when you run into a brick wall, you’ve just got to knock the bastard over. – Sir Peter Leitch.

 


$387m drop in employer, worker ACC levies

December 2, 2013

ACC Minister Judith Collins has announced changes to ACC levies which will leave $387m in the pockets of employers and workers.

“This Government is committed to the long-term sustainability of the ACC scheme so that it is working for the benefit of both levy payers and claimants,” Ms Collins says.

“Workers and employers will be paying less thanks to the Corporation’s astute financial management, outstanding investment performance and dedication to effective rehabilitation.

“The average New Zealand household can expect to keep just over $200 each year. Small businesses will also be around $180 better off annually and larger employers will receive, on average, a $6000 reduction.”

Ms Collins says the cuts largely reflect the Earners Account (paid by workers) and the Work Account (paid by employers) being fully funded. This means there is enough money in those accounts to cover the ongoing cost of claims.

Motor Vehicle Account levies, incorporated into car registration and petrol prices, will remain the same as that account is not yet fully-funded. The Government expects to introduce cuts for motor vehicle owners from 1 July 2015.

Ms Collins says the Government is on track for further levy cuts in 2015/16 as signalled in the Government’s budget this year.

“It’s important New Zealand maintains its fiscal credibility by reducing pressure on the exchange rate and interest rates to ensure private sector growth and investment are supported. This is especially important as the Canterbury rebuild gathers pace.”

The new rates will be in place for the levy year which starts 1 April 2014.

 

Work Account
Average levy per $100 of liable earnings

Earners’ Account
Levy per $100 of liable earnings (incl. GST)

2014/15 levy rates

$0.95

$1.45

2013/14 levy rates

$1.15

$1.70


Two strikes

November 23, 2013

It hasn’t been a good week for David Cunliffe on the publicity front.

First he confirmed rumours of his high opinion of himself with a biography for the Federated farmers’ conference which described himself as the next Prime Minister.

His second strike came when he referred to Justice Minister Judith Collins as a trout.

Mr Cunliffe made the comment in a blog post on the website The Ruminator this afternoon.

He wrote: “The original brief was to respond to a post by Judith Collins. My post was going to be about snapper, not trout. But considering that issue, along with Judith’s leadership aspirations, has floundered, I’ll try another hook.”

As insults go it’s relatively mild but it’s the second time he’s made a sexist remark about the Minister.

Mr Cunliffe has previously apologised for making a sexist remark about the minister. He told RadioLive in 2011 that the human species would be extinct if Mrs Collins was the last woman on earth.

Neither over-confidence nor repeated sexism are good look for an aspiring Prime Minister especially one who leads a party which is supposedly so supportive of women it’s introduced a female quote for MPs.


Prevention vs prosecution

November 5, 2013

Abhorrent, cruel, deviant, disgusting, inhuman, immoral, shameful, sickening . . .

All of these adjectives can be applied to the people portrayed on the sexploitation Facebook page, Roast Busters, and their exploits.

The story so far raises lots of questions, one of which is why the police allowed the page to stay up for so long.

Last night 3 News revealed police had been monitoring the ‘Roast Busters’ for two-and-a-half years, but it wasn’t until 3 News contacted Facebook that their page on the social networking site was taken down.

In videos uploaded to the internet, 17- and 18-year-old Auckland men brag about their sexual conquests, who are often drunk and underage. The teenagers also actively recruit new members. . .

Police told 3 News they haven’t been able to take action against the group – aside from a warning – because none of the victims have laid a formal complaint.

“We would love to take some positive action for these girls and others who may be victims in the future, but without actual evidence my hands are tied,” says Detective Inspector Bruce Scott.

“None of the girls have been brave enough to make formal statements to us so we can take it to a prosecution stage or even consider a prosecution stage.”

And the Roast Busters’ Facebook page was allowed to stay online for similar reasons.

“These things obviously did breach Facebook’s terms and conditions, but it takes somebody to see it and make that complaint in order for action to happen,” says Mr Lyons.

Are the need to gather evidence for prosecution and the prevention of more crime mutually exclusive?

Could the police not have identified the perpetrators, interviewed them and alerted their families and schools to what was happening?

Couldn’t they at least have alerted the public to protect the girls and possibly prevent more rapes?

Answering those questions might be easier than finding out how people in a supposedly civilised country can be so divorced from civilised behaviour.

The Harmful Digital Communications Bill being introduced to parliament by Justice Minister Judith Collins might help prevent this sort of abuse in future.

“The Harmful Digital Communications Bill sends a strong message to those who continue to harass and harm others online – time’s up.”

Research shows one in five New Zealand high school students has experienced some sort of cyber bullying or harassment.

“Cyber bullying can have a devastating effect on people’s lives, particularly young people. This Bill will protect victims and hold perpetrators to account.”

Proposals in the Bill include:

  • Creating a new civil enforcement regime that includes setting up or appointing an approved agency as the first port of call for complaints.
  • Allowing people to take serious complaints to the District Court, which will be able to issue remedies such as take-down orders and cease-and-desist notices.
  • Providing a legislative mechanism for people to easily and quickly request the removal of harmful content from websites, which also clarifies the law relating to website hosts (called a “safe harbour” provision).
  • Making it an offence to send messages and post material online with intent to cause harm, punishable by up to three months imprisonment or a $2,000 fine.
  • Creating a new offence of incitement to commit suicide, even in situations when a person does not attempt to take their own life, punishable by up to three years imprisonment.

The Bill includes changes to relevant criminal and civil law to ensure they cover all forms of harmful communications, regardless of whether tormentors use “online” or “offline” means. It also future-proofs the laws against technological advances, to ensure they remain relevant.

But it will take a lot more than legislation to address the causes of  these heinous crimes.

The FAQs on the Bill are here.


Two Nat MPs to be challenged

November 1, 2013

Marlborough grapegrower and fourth-generation farmer Stuart Smith is to challenge sitting MP Colin King for the National Party’s Kaikoura electorate candidacy for next year’s election.

This is the second challenge of a sitting MP.

Former banker and owner of Matahiwi Vineyard Alistair Scott is challenging John Hayes in Wairarapa.

MPs should always be aware they have a use-by date and it’s better to retire gracefully than lose a challenge.

However, if they are as good as they think they are they can survive a challenge and be stronger for it.

Challenges can be messy for a party and cause problems within electorates.

But they can also invigorate them, bringing in new members and offering refreshment.

Prime Minister John Key and Justice Minister Judith Collins both won their seats after challenging sitting MPs.

Sometimes the challenger doesn’t win as once the challenge is public more contenders join the race.

This happened in what was then Wallace when someone challenged the sitting MP who decided to retire. Several others were nominated, one of them was Bill English who won the candidacy and the seat.

National selections are democratic – providing an electorate has enough members it is they who choose the candidate under a proportional voting system.

#gigatownoamaru gains points across the political spectrum.


Knowing when to go

October 3, 2013

National list MP Chris Auckinvole has said he won’t be standing at next year’s election.

. . . Auchinvole said yesterday he intended to resign. “One could say leaning towards retirement. You never have enough, but I am 68 now, I’d be 70 shortly after the next election. It is my intention to retire from party politics.”

He said he had a “number of really good opportunities in the commercial world” to pursue.

The Scottish-born MP entered Parliament, as a list MP, in 2005 “along with half the caucus”.

In 2008 he won the West Coast-Tasman seat from Labour MP Damien O’Connor, who regained it in 2011. . .

I’ve enjoyed the interaction I’ve had with Chris who did a lot of work behind the scenes to help the families of the Pyke River mine victims.

He’s the second National MP to announce his retirement from parliament this week. Napier MP, and Minister, Chris Tremain won’t be seeking re-election either.

. . . Prime Minister John Key indicated he anticipated “one or two” more would follow suit, but declined to say who. . .

One of the few silver linings to the dark cloud of National’s 2002 election defeat was that it cleared out a lot of longer serving MPs. That allowed a big influx of fresh blood in 2005 and there was a good intake of new MPs in 2008 too.

National had a couple of mid-term resignations which brought two fresh faces into the house before 2011, eight new MPs at the election and two more new ones since then.

This has given National the mix of experience and freshness which a caucus, and government, need.

Good MPs know when to go and it’s better to go on their own terms than lose a selection challenge – although challenges have brought in some excellent MPs including John Key, Bill English and Judith Collins.

A few more announcements of end-of-term retirements, in plenty of time for the party and prospective candidates to prepare for selection would be healthy.

It would also reinforce the difference between National and Labour which hasn’t had nearly as much fresh talent and is still saddled with too many MPs who haven’t accepted they’re near or past their best-by dates.

This could be a positive reflection on the potential employability of former National MPs in contrast to those in Labour who might not be as attractive to would-be employers.

But being unemployable outside parliament is not a good reason for clinging on to a seat.


Hyprocisy alert

October 2, 2013

Labour wants ACC cuts to take effect immediately.

I have no doubt people will agree when they work out that would increase their take home pay.

However, spot the irony:

Opposition ACC spokesperson Iain Lees-Galloway said the corporation’s big surplus was gouged from the pay packets of hard working New Zealanders.

This is a spokesman from Labour, the party that contributed to ACC’s financial liabilities by adding more categories of beneficiaries without increasing funding sufficiently.

His party has fought tax cuts which leave more in the pay packets of hard working New Zealanders.

And his party is going to increase taxes to gouge more from those same pay packets of the same hard working New Zealanders and add a Capital Gains Tax too.

That’s not irony, that’s hypocrisy.

 


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