Tui ads & NZ First secretary ok

October 23, 2008

The Electoral Commission  has decided that Tui’s billboards about Winston Peters are not election advertisements.

The billboards said “When Winston says no, he means no – yeah right.”

The commission said:

Whether any particular item is an election advertisement within the meaning of section 5 of the

Electoral Finance Act is a question of circumstances and degree. In the Electoral Commission’s view the statutory test is not whether an item “can be regarded” as encouraging or persuading voting in a particular way – as a matter of logic, almost anything “can” be so regarded – the test is whether the item “can reasonably” be so regarded, allowing inclusion within the definition only when it is objectively reasonable to do so.

I think this is a reasonable decision but if the Act meant “can reasonably” rather than just “can” why didn’t it say so?

The commission also found the New Zealand First secretary didn’t commit an offence in relation to the Party’s 2007 return on donations. However, the commission said:

This summary does not form part of the decision, which is withheld for now in order to avoid potential prejudice to a continuing police investigation. 

The commission’s third decision was that office space provided free-of-charge to Act by Sir Robert Jones at a value of about $20,000 ought to have been included in donations returns up to 2005 and the party is required to make ammended returns.


Don’t audit election returns – NZICA

October 23, 2008

Stephen Franks says the New Zealand Institute of Chartered Accountants is warning its members against auditing election returns of expenses required under the Electoral Finance Act.

. . . a member must consider how appropriate it is, applying the Fundamental Principles in the Code of Ethics, to accept an appointment to “audit” subject matter information that is inherently unauditable. . .

We believe that auditors will have little choice but to state that they have been unable to form the required opinion (ie disclaim any opinion) for the following reasons:
§         There is currently significant uncertainty surrounding what constitutes an election advertisement. 
§         The risk surrounding completeness.  It is difficult to envisage any situation where the auditor would be able to perform audit procedures to give assurance that all expenses have been recorded in the returns – how to establish how many advertisements exist and then how to conclude that all expenses associated with each advertisement are included (particularly where some materials or space has been provided at no charge).
§         Difficulties in establishing the commercial value of materials or advertising space provided free of charge.
§         Difficulties in the apportionment of election expenses of election activity between individual candidates and the party as a whole.
§         It is possible that public funds may have been used for electioneering (as the Auditor-General determined to have happened after the 2005 general election).  No auditor reporting under the Electoral Financing Act will be able to obtain assurance that public funds have not been used in advertisements intended to persuade a voter to favour a candidate or party in an election unless they audit the Parliamentary Services.
 
We note that a disclaimer will most likely be the appropriate form of opinion even in situations where the party or third party involved has implemented strict controls and done everything possible to ensure that the return is as accurate as possible.
 
Clearly this is an unfortunate situation and could have negative connotations.  Those reading the report may misinterpret the opinion (or lack of an opinion).  This is of particular concern given the highly politically sensitive nature of the information contained in the returns and the possibility of high media attention.  The Institute has formally raised this with the Electoral Commission and are attempting to meet with the Chief Executive to discuss this further with her.”

Stephen rightly says:

It is a disgrace to New Zealand democracy, that our audit standards body is saying that an election law is so defective that a prudent auditor should refuse to get into the position where they might have to give an opinion on how it is applied.

What a hurdle the law is to challengers to the political establishment wanting to make sure they do not render themselves liable to huge fines or imprisonment. Even if they could afford professional advice, the professionals are saying many of the questions are inherently unknowable. Establishment insiders of course have party structures and systems to form a consensus on what risks are being run.

Every party and every candidate must find some poor sod to give that sign-off opinion if they are to participate in our democracy. Belatedly the accountants are saying – find someone silly, but not us.

What’s going to happen if/when candidates can’t find anyone to sign off their accounts?


Party not seats give Maori voice

October 23, 2008

When she appeared on Agenda in June  Tariana Turia said:

I think what our people are starting to realise though is that when they voted Maori people into Labour they never got a Maori voice, they got a Labour voice and that was the difference, and they’ve only begun to realise it since the Maori Party came into parliament, because it is the first time that they have heard significant Maori issues raised on a daily basis.

That’s a pretty damning indictment on the dedicated electorates because she’s saying it’s not  the Maori seats but the Maori Party which give Maori a voice.

Given that, do we need the seats?

Dr Lachy Paterson  says we do:

However, any moves to abolish the Maori seats are likely to provoke an outcry from Maoridom. The fact that all the main parties select Maori for electable seats is irrelevant.

Maori now have their own effective and independent voice within parliament, and the thought of all its representatives returning to the control of Pakeha-dominated parties would be galling.

Maori also see the Maori seats, and the Maori Party, as an expression of tino rangatiratanga, of embodying their tangata whenua status. Perceived attacks on Maori as a whole, such as the fiscal envelope or the Foreshore and Seabed Act, have galvanised Maori opposition in the past and abolishing the Maori seats would no doubt provoke a similar response.

The Maori Party MPs have, for the most part, been moderate and effective representatives.

Their presence in parliament, providing a Maori voice, has defused much of the anger and protest previously expressed by Maori who felt marginalised within the political system and society’s institutions.

Philip Temple, disagrees:

What would most likely happen to the Maori Party if the Maori seats were abolished? Dr Paterson believes that those currently on the Maori roll would vote for Labour with both their votes.

What is much more likely is that their voting pattern would reverse: ex-Maori rollers would give their electorate vote to a Labour candidate and their party vote to the Maori Party.

Even if I am no more than half right, the number of ex-Maori roll voters who would support the Maori Party would almost certainly carry it over the 5% threshold, giving it six or seven seats.

So there would be no fewer Maori Party MPs and possibly several more than they are likely to get while keeping the seats without significantly increasing the party vote.

. . . The number of Maori seats is based on the number of people on the Maori roll.

After the last Maori roll option in 2006, the number of seats did not increase.

Maori leaders expressed disappointment that more Maori had not shifted across from the general roll, despite heavy promotion.

Many Maori roll voters shifted the other way, cancelling out about half the Maori roll increase.

The number of Maori seats is unlikely, therefore, to increase in the future, and certainly not by more than another one or two.

Given that these will almost always be split between the Maori Party and Labour, it is severely limiting for the Maori Party to depend on the Maori seats alone.

In other words, they are shooting themselves in their collective foot.

They should be aiming to take pakeha with them, not remain planted in a fortified political pa shouting threats of civil disobedience across the palisade in response to calls to come out.

Dr Paterson’s thinking seems to be rooted in 19th and 20th-century resentment.

No other country with similar democratic traditions – Australia, UK, Canada, USA – uses race-based separate rolls and electorates for elections to their national parliament.

The MMP electoral system has increased Maori representation in Parliament regardless of the separate Maori seats.

It was one of the key arguments for having MMP in the first place.

It is now entirely legitimate to ask why there should continue to be a separate Maori roll and electorates that distort MMPs democratic and proportional representation.

It is no longer appropriate or fair in the 21st century to sustain racially separate electorates established in the entirely different political, social and demographic circumstances of the 19th century.

Nor is it appropriate to leave the decision on the future of the seats up to Maori.

Whether they stay or go is a constitutional matter which affects us all so any decision on their future should be a matter for us all.

 No group of people speaks with a single voice, but the Maori Party does speak for many of what Tariana Turia calls “her people”.

So when she admits it’s not the seats but her party which give Maori a voice, she’s effectively sabotaging any arguments in favour of keeping them.


Nat’s ag policy announced

October 23, 2008

National’s policy of voluntary bonding of doctors, nurses and midwives will be extended to rural vets.

This is one of the initiatives announced by agriculture spokesman David Carter  when he released the party’s agriculture policy today.

 

 It is envisaged that the cost of such a scheme would be in the order of $1.5 million in the first year, rising to $3 million in the second, and $4.5 million in the third year. The costs will be met by achieving savings within the existing funding for the Ministry of Agriculture & Forestry.

Related initiatives include:

 

 * Consider the establishment of rural scholarships to encourage more students from rural backgrounds to study veterinary science.

* Work with Massey University, NZVA, veterinary professionals, and the wider rural sector to address the structural problems contributing to the rural veterinary shortage.

 

National will also take a less less bureaucratic approach to the funding of research & development.

 

Unlike Labour’s Fast Forward Fund, National’s policy locks in a consistent funding regime that doesn’t have the uncertainty attached to it that Labour’s model does.

National is committing $210 million to R&D over the next three years, while Labour is projecting a spend of about $135 million. National will wind up the Fast Forward Fund and:

* Establish an international centre for research into greenhouse gas emissions from livestock, at the cost of $20 million a year.

* Increase funding within Vote RS&T for primary sector and food research of $25 million a year.

* Increase funding for research consortia in the primary and food sectors of $25 million a year.

 

Tenure review has been a source of growing anger among pastoral lessees so National’s more balanced approach is welcome:

 

National is also supporting the principal of Tenure Review, but believes a new approach is needed to restore confidence in the process and ensure that the intent of the Crown Pastoral Land Act is fulfilled. National will:

 

* Implement voluntary, good-faith negotiations between run-holders and government.

* Ensure that the setting of high-country rentals is tied into the earning capacity of the farm property and is such that run-holders can continue to maintain properties at an acceptable level.

* Recognise that high-country run-holders can be as effective in their stewardship of the land as the Crown

The full policy is here.


Something’s burning

October 23, 2008


Let them face the wolves

October 23, 2008

How’s this for an idea?

Third-formers – we were called stinkers; now we would be called year 9 – are as silly as soap, far beyond Ritalin anaesthesia.

And fourth-formers are ridiculously worse.

The post-school “gap” year now fashionably taken by boys seemingly not ready for university would be better taken in year 10, when they could all be sent out into the forest to live with wolves.

It comes from Roy Colbert in his tribute to his Latin teacher, Dame Daphne Purvis, who died recently.


Morgan buys high country station

October 23, 2008

Wanaka’s Hillend Station  has a new owner.

Trade Me founder Sam Morgan has bought it from Infinity Investments for $25 million.

“It’s an exciting new challenge for me and I look forward to investing further in the region, while continuing all of Infinity’s good work in preserving the unique beauty and character of the area,” Mr Morgan said.

Infinity owned the property for nine years and had it valued at $33m. It has two consented development options. One is 41 lot farmpark and the other a subdivision into 31 titles of 20ha.

Mr Morgan could pick up either option or continue to run the station as a high country property.

“It is a very exciting opportunity for him. What we have got here is an iconic South Island property,” said Infinity’s general manager Marc Bretherton.

He said $25m was a fair price in the current climate.

The 2,665 hectare station is on the flanks of Mt Alpha and over looks Wanaka.


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