Reasons for putting loo seat down

September 7, 2009

An Australian bloke found a 3 metre carpet python curled up in his toilet bowl.

It wouldn’t have happened if he’d put the seat down.


Ministerial accommodation changes

September 7, 2009

John Key has announced changes to Ministerial accommodation.

He said the aim was to have something which is simple, easy to understand, transparent and cost effective; gives value for money to the taxpayer and offers suitable accommodation for Ministers and their families.

Ministers will make their own arrangements and pay for it out of a fixed payment of $37,500 per year equivalent to a market-based estimate of rent and a small contribution to other costs.  Only one payment of $37,500 will be made per property.

A second category of payment, of $30,000 per year, will be created for Ministers who remain in the same home for which they are currently claiming the parliamentary allowance of $24,000. The $30,000 payment replaces the parliamentary allowance.

In the event that a Minister chooses to live in a hotel, they will be reimbursed for their actual expenses up to a cap of $37,500 per year.  

No change will be made to properties which are leased by Ministerial Services because that would incur additional costs.

“These decisions reflect my desire to see a simple, transparent and cost-effective system for ministerial accommodation,” says Mr Key.

“The higher allowance for Ministers compared to MPs reflects their greater needs because of their obligation to spend considerably more time in Wellington.  The review notes that if Ministers purchased the equivalent services for their accommodation directly, the average cost is $48,295 per year, so the new rates do not, in most cases, cover the full cost.”

Ministers may not be happy that the new allowances don’t cover all their costs but it would not be wise to argue publicly about that in the current economic climate.

The review recommended selling properties the Crown owns. However, that won’t be done in this parliamentary term.


Nigel Latta on s59 review panel

September 7, 2009

Clinical psychologist Nigel Latta, Police Commissioner Howard Broad and Ministry of Social Development chief executive Peter Hughes are to undertake a review of policies and procedures used by police and CYFS when dealing with smacking.

Latta says 

For the record, and this is something I have commented on publically in a number of  contexts, my personal view on S59 is that I did not agree with the original law change. I also voted no in the referendum. I do not believe that a parent smacking their child, in the ‘common sense’ understanding of what that means, should be subject to criminal prosecution or investigation.

It would be my view that the “anti-smacking debate” has become needlessly polarised from the very beginning into a position whereby you are either “for child abuse”, or you are “against child abuse”. This tendency of both sides of the debate to reduce a complex social/moral issue into rather simplistic extremes has resulted in our being plunged into an argument that has consumed a great deal of time, energy, and money, when ultimately everyone agrees with that we need to do more to protect children from abuse and neglect.

The terms of reference for this review are very clear. I see my role as first and foremost to look at the evidence and to ensure that the law does not result in good parents either being criminalised, or being needlessly subjected to investigations that are intrusive and/or traumatic. This is a responsibility I hold directly to the everyday mums and dads of New Zealand, and one that I take very seriously.

 Because this issue has been dealt with to date in largely emotive and ideological rhetoric, I am interested solely in looking at the data, and in forming an opinion on the actual impact of the law change on that basis. For that reason I will not be meeting with, corresponding with, or entering into discussions with, any lobby groups from either end of the debate.

 That is a sensible stance to take when dealing with an issue which has been debated with more emotion than facts.

Whether people want the law to stay as it is or to change the law or the way it is applied, their best ammunition is hard data not rhetoric.

The terms of reference for the review are here.


There’s a pinch of truth in all good satire

September 7, 2009

The secret of good satire is to blur the lines between what’s true and what might be so the reader is never quite sure what’s what and what’s not:

Take this for example:

The blogs. News editors in the dailies and on TV believe everything they read on the blogs. And they get all table-bangy at their staff and demand follow-ups. Which is why their staff also spend so much time monitoring the blogs.

So you want to get news coverage these days, leak your story to one of the high profile blogs. Kiwblog, Whaleoil, Roarprwan, even Poneke, when he comes out of retirement again.

Boris Hampton must have been writing his Diary of a Wellington Insider with his tongue in his cheek, but like any good satirist he’s mixed more than a grain of it-could-be-so in his story.

The death of the mainstream media is greatly exaggerated, but the best blogs do break stories and/or find fresh angles on those already broken.

Journalists who spent their days deep in blogs wouldn’t have much to publish, but ignoring the better ones altogether would be like a radio reporter neglecting to read a newspaper.


Monday’s quiz

September 7, 2009

1. Which countries formed the South East Asia Treaty Organisation?

 2. Who said I suffer fools gladly because I am one of them?

 3. Who wrote Not a Penny More, Not a Penny Less?

4. What is borborygmi?

5. Which is Europe’s only Budhist replublic? (Honesty requires I give the credit for this to Andrei from NZ Conservative who left this question for me. I had to look up the answer).


How best to vote on voting

September 7, 2009

I hope discussions on the referendum on MMP take very careful note of not just what choices voters will be presented with but how we will be able to choose.

In 1992 the options were the then status quo of First Past the Post (FPP), or a change to a more proportional system with four options: Mixed member Proportional (MMP), Preferential Voting (PV) Single Transferable Vote or Supplementary Member (SM).

The result was decisive:

First stage

%

 

Second stage

%

 

Change the voting system

84.7

 

Retain FPTP

15.3

 

Retain FPTP

15.3

 

Supplementary Member (SM)

5.6

 

 

 

 

Single Transferable Vote (STV)

17.4

 

Turnout

55.5

 

MMP

70.5

 

 

 

 

Preferential Vote (PV)

6.6

 

The number of people who voted for MMP was greater than the total of those who voted for all other options so even if a preferential system of voting had been used it’s possible MMP would still have won.

But whether that was because people really understood and wanted that system or just wanted to send MPs a message is a moot point.

Anecdotal evidence points to a lot of people voting against MPs rather than for MMP oblivious to the fact that the change to that system resulted in more MPs.

Dissatisfaction at the tail wagging antics of minor parties led to dissatisfaction with the system and had a referendum been held earlier it would almost certainly have gone against MMP.

Now the system has matured dissatisfaction has decreased, helped somewhat by the way National embraced the Maori Party when it didn’t need to and the popularity of John Key.

However, I still don’t like MMP.

It gives too much power to parties when membership is low. The last public figures I saw put National membership at more than 40,000. Chris Trotter reckons Labour has only 5,000 members. The Maori Party claims 10,000 members, two of the parties in parliament are really just one-man vanity vehicles and they like the other wee parties probably have few if any more than the 500 minimum required for registration.

It allows small parties to wield power far out of proportion to their membership and voter support.

It allows unprincipled MPs to take and cling to the baubles of office.

 It enables MPs to stay in parliament when they’ve been rejected by voters.

It has created electorates which are far too big – and this problem will increase unless the population growth imbalance between Auckland and the South Island changes.

A change in the voting system is an important constitutional matter and  I’d have preferred a Royal Commission to look at the options before we have a referendum.

That isn’t going to happen so there will need to be a lot of education if we’re going to be able to vote intelligently. 

I’d also like a discussion on how we vote on how we vote. 

Last time it turned in to a two horse race between FPP and MMP, mostly because those were the systems which got the most publicity.

These are still the systems most people know most about, although  younger voters will have only known MMP for central government elections.

If we’re given as many choices this time as we were in 1992, and it’s not going to be another two-horse race, a system which enables us to rank our preferences might be a better way to vote than one which lets us tick just one.

Update: Adolf discusses the issue at No Minister.

Not PC asks To MMP or not to?


This is news?

September 7, 2009

The headline says: Survey: few students understand basic finance

I don’t think that is news and nor does Retirement Commissioner Diana Crossan who said the survery results were shocking but not surprising.

“Why would you expect a high level of financial awareness when they don’t teach it at schools and parents don’t have the skills themselves?”

I wonder what the results would have been had the survey been given to parents and teachers too?


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