Greens support free expression only when it suits

February 14, 2011

It’s difficult to decide which is more offensive, the decision to prevent Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard speaking in Parliament or Green Party co-leader Russel Norman’s explanation for doing so:

“The government of the day could invite all sorts of unpleasant people, like (former United States president) George Bush for example they had in Australia, that I think a lot of Members of Parliament would be uncomfortable with and so we thought the best thing was to keep a simple precedent.”

Heaven forbid the delicate ears of our Members of Parliament should be assailed with something which discomforts them!

But let’s not overlook this means the Green Party which purports to uphold democracy and campaigns for freedom of speech in far flung corners of the world won’t allow it in our House of Representatives.

There’s nothing special about supporting freedom of expression for those whose ideas coincide with yours. Real supporters of freedom of expression must allow those with whom they disagree to speak freely too.

As Noam Chomsky said: If we don’t believe in freedom of expression for people we despise, we don’t believe in it at all

Similar sentiments have been expressed by many others:

We can never be sure that the opinion we are endeavouring to stifle is a false opinion; and if we were sure, stifling it would be an evil still.  ~John Stuart Mill, On Liberty, 1859

The fact is that censorship always defeats its own purpose, for it creates, in the end, the kind of society that is incapable of exercising real discretion.  ~Henry Steele Commager

The only valid censorship of ideas is the right of people not to listen.  ~Tommy Smothers

Think for yourselves and let others enjoy the privilege to do so, too.  ~Voltaire

Censorship reflects society’s lack of confidence in itself.  It is a hallmark of an authoritarian regime.  ~Potter Stewart

The peculiar evil of silencing the expression of an opinion is, that it is robbing the human race; posterity as well as the existing generation; those who dissent from the opinion, still more than those who hold it.  If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth:  if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error.  ~John Stuart Mill, On Liberty, 1859

If all mankind minus one were of one opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind.  ~John Stuart Mill, On Liberty, 1859

We are not afraid to entrust the American people with unpleasant facts, foreign ideas, alien philosophies, and competitive values.  For a nation that is afraid to let its people judge the truth and falsehood in an open market is a nation that is afraid of its people.  ~John F. Kennedy

I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.  ~Voltaire

Hat Tip: Petty and small minded at Whaleoil and  The Petty Greens at Keeping Stock.

Update:

Alf Grumble reckons the grumpy Greens need garroting for gazzumping the Gillard prescedent.


Alf’s office?

June 25, 2010

We took the long way home from the Wairarapa yesterday, going via Bulls.

En route, we passed through Eketahuna, home of Alf Grumble MP.

I didn’t spot him in town, perhaps he was busy in Wellington.

But I did see this sign which I presume points to his office:

If it does, I presume if people turn left they’ll be right.


What’s in it for us?

August 23, 2009

North and South editor Virginia Larson tells us in this month’s editorial she requested an interview with All Black captain Richie McCaw.

I wanted to find out what makes a leader out of a young man; what people and places shaped him in his childhood; how he bears the hopes and expectation of thousands every time he leads his team into the arena.

After some exchange of emails with McCaw’s agent, a final phone call came to this: “What’s in it for us?” said the agent. Well, there was no money, of course, and on the spot I couldn’t guarantee a cover . . . But didn’t he value a thoughtful, in-depth profile to be read by close to 3000,000 people . . .

Clearly, he didn’t. Access denied.

If the All Blacks, want to gain back the place they once had in New Zealanders’ hearts, the question isn’t what’s in it for them but what’s in it for us, the public.

My father and brothers weren’t interested in rugby, they preferred sailing. But radio commentaries provided a background to my childhood Saturday afternoons because my mother often listened to them, especially when her nephew was playing for University or Otago.

I didn’t watch a game until I was 17 when the prefects from Waitaki Girls’ were invited to watch inter-school matches at Waitaki Boys’. It didn’t really matter what was on, it was an excuse for an afternoon out of class and with boys.

A few excursions to Carisbrook when I was a student followed and there were also some late/night early morning parties when we crowded round a black and white television to watch a test from overseas. But the attraction was not so much what was happening on the field as the opportunity for fun with friends.

The next memory I have of rugby was 1981 and the Springbok tour. While some people a little older than I am feel it was a defining issue, I didn’t. I was in my first job as a journalist and reported on local reactions, and happened to be in Christchurch with friends when there was a test somewhere which we watched on TV, but it was not a major concern or interest for me.

I was overseas the following year, returned home to be married and have vague memories of gatherings with friends at our home or theirs to watch the odd test in the next few years.

It wasn’t until 1995 when we hosted an AFS student from Argentina who played rugby that I watched a live game. That was a World Cup year and the All Blacks toured New Zealand, stopping in provincial towns to meet their fans. I took our student who could speak only a little English, to meet them. His excitement at exchanging a few words in Spanish with Eric Rush and shaking hands with Sean Fitzpatrick brought home to me the strength of their influence and international reputation.

The Super 12 competition started the following year and we travelled down to Dunedin and Christchurch to watch several games. We watched a few NPC games  at Lancaster Park and Carisbrook too, including the one when Otago didn’t win the Ranfurly Shield and one when they did win the NPC competition.

Then what happened? The season got longer, the competition didn’t have the same attraction and frustration at the way rugby interfered with other functions grew. I’ve watched a few North Otago games but last year went to Dunedin only once for an NPC game, this year I half-watched a Super 14 game on TV and haven’t yet watched a test.

I know just enough about the game to sit through a match, but I need an emotional connection to enjoy it. I might have that with Valley which is our local team and North Otago, but I no longer have it with any teams higher up. I’d be hard pressed to name any Highlander or Otago players and couldn’t name more than a handful of All Blacks.

Part of the reason for that might lie in a comment from Graham Henry which caught Alf Grumble’s attention:

“. . . I guess the product’s not too great and that’s disappointing.”

When I read that I begin to wonder if Karl du Fresne really had been in the All Black dressing room when he wrote:

The meeting opened with a team official launching a withering attack on player A, who had been seen in a Durban bar wearing a non-approved hair gel. The player’s excuse – that he had a new executive assistant who had packed the wrong makeup kit – was contemptuously brushed aside.

Next, player B was fined for having turned up late at a promotional appearance to launch the ABs’ new personal fragrance range, evocatively named Scrum. . .

It didn’t used to be a product. The players were heroes but not plastic celebrities. They were real, grounded people connected to and respectful of the public who admired them.

At least some of the current All Blacks might still be like that. From what I know of Richie McCaw, who grew up in the HakaValley not far from here, he definitely is. But his agent has let him down and has also let rugby down.

When the agent had to ask, “what’s in it for us?”  and the coach talks about the product they’ve both lost sight of what’s important.

It’s not a product it’s a game. The All Blacks aren’t royalty who command attention, they’re players who need to connect with the public if they want to win back fans.

I’m writing this on Saturday evening. The All Blacks will be playing the Wallabies soon. I might turn the TV on to watch the national anthems and the haka and to see if I can catch sight of some people I know in the crowd because they happened to have important business in Sydney this weekend.

But I won’t stay awake for the game and while I’ll hope that New Zealand will win, that’s no more than I’d want if it was the national tiddlywinks team playing the Australians.

I’m over rugby which isn’t of any great concern if it’s only me. But it’s not. A lot of people, especially women, share my lack of interest and that ought to be of great concern for the Rugby Union who wants us all to get behind the World Cup.

They haven’t got long to get us enthusiastic again. They could start by realising that unless they can persuade us there’s something in it for us, there isn’t anything in it for them. A good first step would be for that agent to phone North and South to arrange a time that suits the journalist for an interview with Richie.


LVT backs farmers on amenity values

August 2, 2009

The Otago Land Valuation Tribunal has backed farmers in their case against the inclusion of amenity values in rents for high country pastoral leasehold land.

This is a victory for farmers and common sense.

The previous government had instructed valuers to include amenity values including views and privacy when assessing rents farmers with pastoral leases pay.

It would have meant steep increases in the cost of farming the high country which bore no relationship to its earning potential.

Rents have always been set on land exclusive of improvements and the tribunal’s ruling has backed this stance.

Jonathon and Annabel Wallis of Minaret Station took a test case to the tribunal with the support of the High Country Accord.

It has been an expensive and worrying process for them and their supporters.

The ruling could be appealed but the change of government makes that unlikely.

Ministers have been careful not to pre-empt the judgement but earlier statements from them on the matter suggest they will not only accept the tribunal’s ruling, they will be supportive of it.

Alf Grumble’s approval of the ruling suggests he will be lobbying for that. Although I suspect that won’t be necessary because unlike the previous administration this one appreciates that a sheep isn’t worth any more because the land it grazes has a good view.

The ODT and Southland Times have reports on the case.


First do no harm

June 18, 2009

First do no harm is a guiding principle in medicine.

If politicians and bureaucrats abided by it too we wouldn’t be saddled with the Kyoto Protocol in its current form. Nor would New Zealand be in danger of scoring an on-goal economically while at best making no impact on the environment and almost certainly  making it worse.

However, a joint report by the NZIER and Infometrics provides a glimmer of hope that reason might be brought to bear on our Kyoto commitments.

Environment Minister Nick SMith said at its release:

This report concludes that a modified emissions trading scheme is the best way forward. I am releasing this report to assist with informed public debate on climate change.

“The report highlights that the costs to New Zealand’s climate change policy are significantly greater if other countries do not put a price on carbon. This reinforces the Government’s policy of aligning our response more closely with other countries.

The report concludes:

On balance, our recommendation in the short run is to introduce an ETS with free allocation to competitiveness-at-risk sectors, with agriculture excluded if measurement of its emissions is prohibitively expensive. Free allocation should be output-linked and phased out as our competitors adopt carbon pricing. If agriculture is initially excluded it should be transitioned into the ETS, with free allocation if required, as measurement becomes economic.

The hardworking MP for Eketahuna, Alf Grumble, reckons this will give agriculture a bit of breathing space. I trust he’s lobbying his colleagues to ensure it does.


Carter questions court action – Updated

May 15, 2009

Agriculture Minister David Carter is questioning Fish & Game’s leadership  after its failed attempt to gain public access to pastoral lease land.

“I seriously question the use of hunting and fishing licensing fees in taking this action, and I will be discussing this further with the Minister of Conservation.

“I am concerned this divisive action was taken when there was no foundation for Fish and Game’s claim for greater public access to high country stations.

“A pastoral lease gives the runholder the right to say who has access to their leasehold land. This is no different from private property owners,” says Mr Carter.

“The fundamental duty of Fish and Game is to advocate for hunters and fishers, and to help enhance their relationship with rural landowners. . . “

How refreshing to have a Minister who stands up for farmers and rightly questions whether Fish and Game should be using licence fees for its political and litigious campaigns.

Anecdotal evidence from hunters and fishers suggest the Minister is more in touch with their concerns than the body their licence fees funds.

This misguided court action was expensive for licence holders, tax payers and farmers and it’s not just money but goodwill that was wasted.

UPDATE:

Federated Farmers said the court action was a disaster:

The challenge was a failed attempt to by-pass all the work associated with walking access and it is a spiteful and damaging waste of the fishing and hunting license fee money. . .

“This decision brings relief for affected High Country farming families, as they now know Fish & Game members won’t be entitled to walk all over them,” says Donald Aubrey, Federated Farmers High Country chairman.

Both Federated Farmers and the High Country Accord played an instrumental role in the formation and development of the Walking Access Commission.

“We have contributed positively to the development of rules for public access that give pastoral leaseholders and their families security and certainty. Meanwhile, Fish & Game’s Executive has sadly played nothing but a negative and destructive role. . .

“High Country pastoral leases impose strict conditions on us as farmers. The judgment acknowledges that leaseholders are responsible for much more than just grass.

“It’s only right that farmers have the ability to control and manage access to such land. This decision enables pastoral leaseholders to operate a business and maintain authority over their property rights contained in their leases. 

“The High Court’s judgement also recognises that pastoral leaseholders perform a stewardship role. In other words, we farm with the High Country and not against it. . .

“Fish & Game chief executive, Bryce Johnston, now needs to take a long hard long look at his and his Council’s decision to waste a vast amount of license fee money on this challenge.

“Federated Farmers consider it also time for the Government to look at the legislative privilege that enables Fish & Game to fund such frivolous litigation. This inappropriate use of license fee money should not go unchecked by Government,” Mr Aubrey concluded.

High Country Accord chair Jonathon Wallis issued a media release in which he asked if the action was a misuse of funds.

“Not just the huge amount of money farmers have been forced to direct into these proceedings away from rejuvenating our economy through expanding and maintaining agricultural production, but both the vast amount of tax payer funds that went into jointly defending it and the allocation of precious funds more commonly used for the protection and establishment of habitat for our fish and game.”

“The latter are funds generated by the sale of Fish and Game licenses sold to hunters and anglers who for almost a century have respected the goodwill and relationships established between farmers and recreationalists regardless of it being a matter of privilege as opposed to right.”

“The question also has to be asked whether this was not just a personal crusade by an executive distorted from the opinion of the general membership of Fish and Game itself.”

Wallis said he allowed licensed duck shooters on to his property on opening morning because he wasn’t blaming them for the actions of the national council.

Alf Grumble and The Bull Pen also post on the issue.


Hottest & Hunkiest – How Sad is That?

May 5, 2009

If bloggers were lined up across the politcial spectrum, the erstwhile MP for Eketahuna Alf Grumble would generally be at the blue end and the women at the Hand Mirror would be at the pink to red end.

But today they are in accord over the quest for the hottest businessswoman and hunkiest businessman.

Alf says:

Much more fundamentally, Alf is flabbergasted that the Fairfax clowns have the gall to contend:

Here at BusinessDay we take business very seriously.

. . . Yes, Alf is only too aware of the recessionary bite. It is chewing up jobs and it is corroding people’s investments.

That’s precisely why he doesn’t give a toss about who is the hottest or the hunkiest. . .

Deborah at The Hand Mirror says:

Mind you, it is at least an equal opportunity *headdesk*. They’re promising a poll on NZ’s hottest businessman tomorrow.

Sigh…

There’s a place for  judging people on their appearances but it’s not the business pages of media which wish to be taken seriously and there are far more intelligent ways to bring a bit of lightness and humour if they feel the need to  counteract the economic gloom.


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