Privacy only a right when you’re left?

October 27, 2016

If there’s an award for hypocritical statement of the year this is a contender:

. . . privacy (like freedom of speech) is an essential part of a person being able to develop their personality and beliefs. It’s as crucial and fundamental as that. Privacy is about being able to develop a sense of self, about being able to develop our ideas (making mistakes, changing our minds) and about figuring out our relationships. Sometimes it is about very private things that we want to keep secret: family problems, sexuality, special likes and dislikes, and fears and hopes that gradually make us who we are.

I know as a writer on intelligence that most people by far aren’t being spied on. But if the idea or fear is around that our lives aren’t private, it undermines this vital stuff about who we are. . . 

It is awful if people wonder needlessly whether someone is reading their private email, or decides they’d better not be involved in politics, or generally shrinks down and limits who they are because of an unnecessary fear of surveillance. Because, unfortunately, the fear that we’re being watched does almost as much damage as the reality would. 

Why is that hypocritical? It comes from Nicky Hager the man who used other people’s private emails and published them in books.

He had no concern for the privacy of people like Cameron Slater, David Farrar and Don Brash. He didn’t worry about the affect his breaches of privacy would have on the people who had written or received the emails he made public.  He believed he had a right to abuse their privacy to further his political agenda.

Privacy isn’t only a right for people you like and whose views support your own.

Privacy isn’t only a right if you’re left.

Privacy, like freedom of speech, is a universal right.


Paula PM

October 27, 2016

Fifth ranked Cabinet Minister Paula Bennett is Prime Minister – for a day:

She’s taken up the reins because John Key is in India, Bill English and Steven Joyce are across the ditch, and Gerry Brownlee is in Paris – meaning the Social Housing Minister is officially the acting Prime Minister.

“I am the acting Prime Minister for I think all of 24 hours. The boys are leaving it to me,” Ms Bennett told Newshub.

It’s the first time a woman has been in power since Helen Clark.

So what does one do with such power? Change all the laws? Settle in for a bubble bath at Premier House? A parade perhaps? . . 

“I think we’ll just go for a steady hand.”

Given how many countries are being run by unsteady hands that is something for which we can all be grateful.

Boxing not right fit for public funds

October 26, 2016

Duco which is promoting Joseph Parker’s world heavyweight title fight in New Zealand, is seeking public funding:

Boxing requires skill, strength and fitness like other sports.

People get hurt doing it, like other sports.

But unlike other sports, that’s the aim in boxing.

That makes it a bad fit for public funds.

It might gain international attention but it can’t be compared withevents like the Rugby World Cup or next year’s World Shearing and Wool Handling Championships which qualified for major events funds.

They not only had/will have multiple participants they attracted/will attract thousands of visiting supporters and fans over weeks.

Welcome changes to election broadcasting

October 20, 2016

Justice and Broadcasting Minister Amy Adams says a planned refresh of the outdated format of election broadcasts will modernise them in time for the 2017 General Election.

Ms Adams announced today that the Broadcasting (Election Programmes and Election Advertising) Amendment Bill will be introduced to Parliament next week.

The Bill will remove the requirement for political parties’ opening and closing election broadcasts to be aired on television and radio. It will also remove the requirement for TVNZ and Radio NZ to provide free time for these.

“The addresses are an outdated format and declining audience numbers show they are not effective at engaging voters,” says Ms Adams.

For example, during opening addresses in 2014, TVNZ received 25 per cent fewer viewers than they would usually get.

This is a very welcome change.

Compelling TVNZ and Radio NZ to broadcast the opening and closing statements has long passed its use-by date.

I’m a political tragic and partisan but I only watched National’s broadcasts out of loyalty and gave up on the other parties’ broadcasts after a very few minutes.

“Reform of opening and closing addresses was recommended by the Justice and Electoral Select Committee in their Inquiry into the 2014 General Election. Both TVNZ and Radio NZ welcome the proposed change.”

The Bill recognises the growing use of digital and online media. As well as television and radio, parties will now be allowed to use their allocation for advertising online.

“I hope that by giving parties more flexibility in how they communicate their messages, more voters will engage in the electoral process,” says Ms Adams.

“Parties will continue to be able to spend their own money on online advertising while funding for television and radio advertising remains limited to the funding allocated by the Electoral Commission.”

I accept a cap on overall spending but parties should be free to decide how much of the allowable amount they spend on which medium.

To offset the reduction in time that parties are given to address voters, the Government has agreed to increase election advertising funding by $750,000. This brings the budget to $3.605 million.

I’d prefer no public funding of advertising at all.

Political parties are voluntary organisations. All their activities, including election advertising, should be funded by members, donors and and other fundraising not taxes.

The criteria the Electoral Commission uses for allocating funding between parties, as well as other rules for election advertising and expenses, will not change.

It is expected the new Bill will eventually be considered alongside the Electoral Amendment Bill, which recently had its first reading in Parliament. The changes in both Bills are intended to be in time for the 2017 General Election.

There’s a Q&A on the changes here.


The right time to go

October 20, 2016

Education Minister Hekia Parata will not contest the next election:

She advised the Prime Minister of her decision earlier this year.

“It is a privilege to be part of the John Key-led Government. However this is the right decision for me and my family, and it is the right time to make my intentions known,” says Ms Parata.

“I have no plans beyond serving as Education Minister as long as the Prime Minister wishes me to. There are still a number of deliverables in the education work plan in the meantime and my focus and energy will be unwavering.

“It is an honour to work each day in this portfolio – it’s true that it involves a number of difficult decisions but I have been committed to making the right decision for our children and young people.

“I am also keen to see a fresh candidate nominated in the marvellous seat of Mana and to provide voters with a strong contest at the next election.”

Ms Parata was elected to Parliament in 2008 and has served as the Minister of Education since 2011. She has previously held the portfolios of Minister of Pacific Island Affairs, Minister of Energy and Resources, Minister for Women, Minister of Ethnic Affairs, Minister for Community & Voluntary Sector, and Associate Minister of ACC. . . 

Education is one of the toughest portfolios.

Teacher unions whose leaders put politics before education make the role even harder for a National Minister.

Hekia was always a strong advocate for pupils and teachers in spite of the unions. Her policies have led to significant improvements to the education system and pupil performance.

The right time to go is very much a matter of debate but Hekia is leaving voluntarily which is always the best way to go.

Whether she remains as a Minister until the end of the parliamentary term is up to the Prime Minister. Some Ministers who have announced retirements have been replaced before they leave parliament, others have served out the full term.

1.8b surplus with dairying in doldrums

October 17, 2016

Finance Minister Bill English presented the Crown accounts for the year to June, showing a surplus of $1.8 billion in 2015/16, up from $414 million in 2014/15.

The Crown accounts show core Crown expenses are under 30 per cent of GDP for the first time since 2006, net debt has stabilised to 24.6 per cent of GDP and net worth has grown to $89.4 billion in 2015/16.

Mr English says the $1.8 billion operating balance before gains and losses (OBEGAL) in 2015/16 – which compared to a forecast of $176 million in Budget 2015 – is a significant turnaround on the $18.4 billion deficit in 2011 following the Global Financial Crisis and Canterbury earthquakes.

“Government surpluses are rising and debt is falling as a percentage of GDP which puts us in a position to be able to make some real choices for New Zealanders,” Mr English says.

“The New Zealand economy has made significant progress over the past eight years. This delivers more jobs and higher incomes for New Zealanders, and also drives a greater tax take to help the Government’s books.”

Core Crown tax revenue was $1.6 billion higher than forecast in Budget 2015.

“We’ve also been getting on top of our spending, exercising fiscal restraint while still investing responsibly in our growing economy and public services.

Core Crown expenses were $73.9 billion in 2015/16, below the forecast of $74.5 billion at the beginning of the year.

“We’ve focussed on results and are starting to address the drivers of dysfunction by investing in better public services. We remain committed to maintaining rising operating surpluses and reducing net debt to around 20 per cent of GDP in 2020.

“If there is any further fiscal headroom, we may have the opportunity to reduce debt faster and as we’ve always said, if economic and fiscal conditions allow, we will begin to reduce income taxes.

“The outlook for the economy is positive, the Government’s books are in good shape and we are addressing our toughest social problems. However, we also need to bear in mind that there are a lot of risks globally and that is why it is important to get our debt levels down. 

“Budget 2017 will make positive long-term choices to strengthen the economy and our communities.” . . 

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Eight years ago, outgoing Finance Minister Michael Cullen was forecasting a decade of deficits and that was before the GFC and earthquakes.

This turn around is the result of careful spending with the focus on its quality rather than quantity; and policies which promote growth.

That the surplus was achieved in a year when one of the country’s biggest export earners, dairying, was in the doldrums and the sheep industry was only marginally better makes it even more of an achievement.



Poor parenting not confined to poor people

October 13, 2016

Police Minister Judith Collins says many of the problems of child poverty can be blamed on poor parenting:

. . . Ms Collins responded by saying the government was doing a lot more for child poverty in New Zealand than the UN had ever done.

In New Zealand, there was money available to everyone who needed it, she said.

“It’s not that, it’s people who don’t look after their children, that’s the problem.

“And they can’t look after their children in many cases because they don’t know how to look after their children or even think they should look after their children.”

Monetary poverty was not the only problem, she said.

“I see a poverty of ideas, a poverty of parental responsibility, a poverty of love, a poverty of caring.”

As the MP for Papakura, she saw a lot of those problems in south Auckland, she said.

“And I can tell you it is not just a lack of money, it is primarily a lack of responsibility. . . 

Poor parenting isn’t the only cause for the increased likelihood of poor health, poor educational outcomes, criminal convictions and increased risk of joblessness which characterise child poverty.

But it is one of the causes.

There are good parents who find themselves financially stretched or over-stretched but who love and care for their children.

There are also parents who through ignorance, accident or deliberate poor choices give children neither the emotional nor physical care they need to be happy and healthy.

Poor parenting isn’t confined to poor people but the consequences for children are more likely to be worse in poorer families than those in which lack of money isn’t one of the problems.

Denying that poor parenting is one of the causes of child poverty is the sort of blind stupidity that gets in the way of solving at least part of the problem.

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