On ACC they said:

October 18, 2009

Not all editorials and columns agree with the government view on ACC’s problems and solutions.

But there is concensus that there is a big problem in need of an enduring solution.

Southland Times:

That belt-tightening exercise we’re enduring with ACC – there comes a point where what you’ve got is no longer a tightened belt. It’s a tourniquet. Confuse the two and something’s going to blacken and fall off, writes The Southland Times in an editorial.

Many eyes are bulging at the severity of the huge rises to ACC levies, and the toughening up of the qualifying criteria. These measures, including an extra $320 a year coming out of the average wage (which actually seven out of 10 workers are on or below), do need scrutiny for over-reaching.

ODT:

Of greater concern is the growth of future liabilities, from $9.4 billion to $23.8 billion in four years, and a good deal of the responsibility for widened and costly coverage can be laid at the door of the Clark government.

An example is the physiotherapy benefit . . . According to the Government, the subsidy introduced by Labour in 2004 and budgeted to cost $9 million a year had by this year risen to $139 million and was projected to rise to $225 million by 2011-12, with no equivalent rise in rehabilitation rates.

It has quoted other examples of how the scheme has developed far beyond its original concept to cover diseases like leptospirosis and brucellosis and medical conditions like asthma, when, it argues, these should instead be paid for out of Vote Health.

To these might be added trauma of various kinds suffered by victims and perpetrators resulting not from accidents but from criminal acts, mental injury arising from workplace trauma, and sports injuries.

When it began with the 1972 Accident Compensation Act, only those who were employed were entitled to claim for workplace accidents. That soon changed to cover all accidents, including motor vehicle accidents, regardless how injury occurred.

Timaru Herald:

The unworkable or unprofitable parts will have to be bundled back into a Government scheme. And somewhere in the middle the romantic notion of a Government-funded no-fault system will have to be modified in a politically-acceptable way.

It is a Herculean task and one that will provide a stern test for the National Government. Whatever happens in the long term, what is crystal clear today is that taxpayers will have to dig deep to get ACC out of the mire. Having a unique highly regarded system is great in theory. It is also extremely expensive.

The Press:

What would really undermine ACC and its no-fault comprehensive coverage principle would be a lack of firm action taken now to control its costs, with major levy rises not just a short-term source of financial pain for New Zealanders but something that continues well into future years.

The Nelson Mail:

Though there has been no shortage of spin around ACC’s balance sheet and performance during National’s 11 months in office, it is clear some significant changes were needed in order to bring the scheme back under control.

Some of the proposals will sail in – no more entitlements for injured methamphetamine “cooks” for example – but increased levies have already provoked wide-ranging protest.

Dominion Post:

There is no such thing as a free ACC system.

That must be central to the honest conversation the Government is asking New Zealanders to have about the scheme. Stripped to its essentials, the scheme is an insurance one, and that means any entitlement in the scheme costs money, and must be paid for by levies.

The debate must also recognise that the ACC was established to compensate people who are injured. It was not meant to be an extension of the social welfare system, cushioning people against all misfortune. The distinctions it makes are arbitrary, and can be seen as unfair . . .

. . .  The job facing Dr Smith and his colleagues is to convince the public that what is being done is fair, and within the spirit of the deal that saw New Zealanders trade away their right to sue for a no-fault right to compensation.

That deal remains a good one. It should be made to work and made affordable, not torn up.

Taranaki Daily News:

The massive increases aimed at the two-wheelers just highlights what a sorry mess ACC has become. The corporation was introduced in 1974 on April Fool’s Day which probably says much about what it has become – a $24 billion liability to the taxpayer.National promised to put the boot into bureaucrats and under-performing government departments when it came to power last year.

ACC was clearly in its sights and so it should have been.

Quite apart from the horrific imbalance between money taken in and that dished out, New Zealanders have become sick of the tales that have leaked from the corporation throughout its 35-year existence.

Remember the outrage of the prisoner being paid ACC for injuries suffered during the act of crime?

While those criminal instances might be a fraction of the ACC’s overall costs it nevertheless highlights the stupidity of parts of its system.

Past abusers of ACC are partly responsible for the current tightening in all areas.

Deborah Hill Cone:

A benefit now has a cosier name – an entitlement – which is “a right granted by law or contract”. Big. Difference. . .

There has been a lot of talk of entitlements over the ACC-in-a-pickle problem. . .  And the punters who have “entitlements” are no longer called claimants; they are clients, lest it might sound as though they are putting their paw out. The ACC public relations dude told me the Labour Government had asked for the jargon change – Labour understood the power of Neuro-linguistic Programming. The theory was that people had actually paid their premiums and so shouldn’t feel they were getting summat for nothing. Dinky idea, but as we now know, the premiums do not cover the cost of the ACC scheme – so claimants are getting something for nothing. Actually. . .

. . . I am still waiting for someone to explain to me why it is that large corporates, such as Fonterra and Air New Zealand, can opt out of ACC and self-insure – but I can’t. Oh, I get the practical reason – that I don’t have a lazy mill to cover a claim – but where is the policy rationale? The opt-out clause (cosy name: the “partnership programme”) takes 15 per cent of the country’s workers out of ACC. So if these corporates can manage their health and safety liabilities more efficiently than ACC, what does that say about ACC?

Herald on Sunday:

. . .  in the 35 years since ACC was established, so many bits have been carved off and clipped on that it bears little resemblance to the original design.

Anomalies abound: people who work in dangerous jobs pay more in earner levies than people who work in offices, but rugby league forwards incur no more expense by way of premium payment than those whose leisure preference is macrame. . .

More profoundly, many of its conceptual assumptions have been corrupted by this piecemeal regulatory intervention. ACC has not been reviewed since the 1980s and, once it has dealt with the immediate crisis, the Government would do well to consider another reassessment of the entire system.

In 1974, we entered a social contract by which we surrendered the right to sue. As a society, we were keen to avoid the litigious and ludicrously expensive American model.

But it is not an absolute truth than our system is better. Anyone who spends time in the US will quickly notice the lengths to which people go to avoid posing a risk to others.

That carefulness flows from fear of being sued, of course, but it’s worth wondering whether we here have grown too accustomed to being reckless of others’ – and our own – welfare, in the knowledge that someone else will pay.

If nothing else, the crisis we face now reminds us that we are all that someone else.

Deborah Coddington

The Government can remain insurer of last resort for dangerous employers with bad track records, but why should safe, careful employers who look after their workers continue to pay high levies and cross-subsidise the former?


Editorials on Maori seats

August 26, 2009

The ODT says:

That Maori believe they are entitled to separate representation because of the treaty is a claim not tested in law, though it may yet be; that seats should be provided for them piecemeal, council by council, as a “gesture” is patronising and scarcely credible.

What next? That each tribe should have a seat? The Cabinet decision may appear to have effectively pre-empted change, but the issue will doubtless return when Parliament debates the legislation. The Government should not retreat from its position.

The Manawatu Standard  says Maori deserve better than this:

The Government’s decision to exclude Maori seats from the new Auckland super city council was the wrong one.

It is a victory for populism over courage, and political expediency over the much more arduous pursuit of justice. What is it that makes acknowledging that Maori hold a special status in this country as its indigenous people so utterly distasteful to so many? Why can we not see any further back than the myopia of Brash-era thinking and view the issue of Maori representation through a broader historical context?

If that were to happen, people like ACT leader Rodney Hide might cease his “one man, one vote” yammering and see an indigenous people whose sense of identity is inextricably linked to the land, and who were systematically marginalised as it was taken from them, divided up and sold for profit particularly in Auckland.

Is it such anathema to ensure they have input into how that land is governed now?

Just two editorials this morning on the issue and they have opposing views.

I’m with the ODT.

UPDATE:

The Nelson Mail says:

Maori are perfectly capable of being elected on their merits when they put themselves forward alongside people of other races. Special consultation is a good thing and already required of all councils by the local government legislation. Guaranteeing seats based on race is something else.

The Taranaki Daily News writes on giving up seats so they can stand:

Are they really so disparaging of their own political prowess that they feel they need a leg-up to compete with others in the political arena? . . . 

 . . . Prime Minister John Key’s announcement that Cabinet will not support separate Maori seats for the Auckland super city is a tip of the hat to the mature political force and nous within Maoridom, rather than a denigration of its status.

It is a recognition that a great deal has happened in the 140 years since Maori seats were established in Parliament in 1868, that much progress has been made to advance the Maori voice, and that they no longer need to stand on the shoulders of others to get noticed.

In fact, we would go so far as to say the idea that Maori need some kind of false apparatus or rigged game to secure their place at the table is patronising and potentially racist in its intentions, a colonial sop that gives the pretence of power while keeping the reins in the hands of the few.

That might have been appropriate 140 years ago, when Maori were a nascent political force still finding their way and learning the ropes.


Editorials on referendum

August 25, 2009

The Southland Times says Let’s reassure parents:

It’s one thing to accept that police have been very careful about the way the law is being interpreted, right now. But there’s no getting around it that a great many parents remain worried about a wider anti-smacking agenda and that the sands may shift underneath parents in future, and a much harder line be taken by the law as it now stands.

Underscoring that view is the widespread public recognition of the distaste from many in the so-called PC corridors of power, notably the law’s original drafter Sue Bradford, for any sort of smacking. It’s a distaste this newspaper shares . . .

The explicit intention of the law’s final form was that nobody could commit the sort of assault against a child that would previously have landed them in court and rightly so in the eyes of mainstream New Zealanders but then raise the arcane previous defence that they were within the rights of parental correction. That defence was removed under the Bradford legislation, and so it should have been.

But, okay. Maybe the existing law does need to be refined to give greater assurance that normal parental guardianship and discipline will still be the preserve of the parents.

It’s got the bit about reasonable force wrong – that’s still allowed for prevention.

The Press says the vote was a fiasco:

The question posed was flawed, the participation of voters low, the campaign unengaging, the cost of the exercise prohibitive and the results inconsequential. In short, the referendum was a fiasco.

The question was flawed, though its intent was clear it has enabled the governmetn to address the result without changing the law. But the turnout wasn’t low and the cost was the fault of the previous Prime Minsiter who decreed the referendum couldn’t take place with last year’s election.

The Nelson Mail says politicians need to resist mob pressure:

Nelson MP Nick Smith was on the money in suggesting the anti-smacking referendum result reflected a strong reaction against the “nanny state”.

The overwhelming “no” vote nearly 90 per cent, with a turnout of more than half of this country’s registered voters is also a slap in the face for children’s rights and anti-violence advocates. It delivers an unfortunate message about New Zealand’s underlying conservatism and represents an important challenge to the country’s politicians as they consider how to respond to it.

The Dominon Post editorialises  In the Dominion Post Richard Long says: on making an ass of our laws:

Even a 100 per cent vote against the anti-smacking law would not have made it possible to revoke.

It  might be frightening the  daylights out of decent, law- abiding middle class parents, but  now it is on the statute books we  are stuck with it. To do otherwise  would be signalling open slather  on kids. It would be saying  whacking is fine.

David Cohen asks is an editorial smack part of good part of good media discipline?:

With the votes now counted and an emphatic result in, the biggest loser in the recently concluded child-discipline referendum appears to be the news media.
 
Almost 90 percent of people who participated in the citizens-initiated referendum asking New Zealanders whether smacking should be illegal voted No. An entirely unsurprising result, that. . .
 
 
A significant aspect in much of the media coverage in the lead-up to the referendum was the almost uniformly negative press accorded to potential No voters.
 
He says almsot everything in the NZ Herald was desisgned to put No voters in the worst possible light, but the Herald editorial is the only post-vote one which wants a change in the law.
 
It says parliament should act to define force:
 
The people have spoken and the Government is obliged to act. The vote against the criminalisation of parental “correction” is too decisive to be ignored. The referendum question may have been biased by its reference to “good” parental correction but it is doubtful that anyone who wanted to outlaw smacking was misled by it. . .
 
This whole debate has disguised a high level of consensus about the place of violence in child discipline. Before the referendum the Herald commissioned a DigiPoll survey of parents . . .  It found the number who smack their children at least once a week has dropped drastically in the past decade to just 8.5 per cent. The number who never smack – just 10 per cent in the previous decade – has risen to 36 per cent.

Yet 85.4 per cent of that same sample intended to vote against the criminalisation of smacking. Plainly today’s parents have found better ways to bring up children but overwhelmingly they do not want the law to forbid their resort to force if they need it.

The law does not forbid it, and never has.
 
It too is wrong on this last point. The ammendment to Section 59 permits reasonable force for prevention but makes it illegal to smack a child for the purposes of correction.
 
Another point several editorials made is that there are much more important things to worry about. They are right, but that won’t make this issue go away.
 
UPDATE:
The Marlborough Express says Costly referendum a waste of money:
 
The law was brought in as there was a clear problem defining what reasonable force was. In a climate of despair over repeated child abuse in this country the law made it clear that it was not okay to hit children.
 
But it didn’t. It still allows reasonable force for prevention.
 
The Dominion Post says Smacking vote carries clout:
 
The question is loaded and ambiguous. It presupposes that smacking is part of good parenting –  a debatable point – and ignores the fact that the existing law specifically permits the use of reasonable force, including smacking, in certain circumstances.

Those circumstances are fairly comprehensive. They include: to prevent harm to children or others, to stop offensive or disruptive behaviour and to stop criminal behaviour.

At least one paper understands the current law still allows the reasonable force which the Act’s proponents – and a lot of its opponents – wanted to get rid of.

 
 
 

It’s the economy, stupid

October 9, 2008

The Nelson Mail :

Over the next month the major parties must temper the usual promises to perform better than the other lot with explanations of what they intend to do so that New Zealand can best weather this economic storm and the extended period of recovery to come. The time for election bribes is over. The choice is not so much between old hands and new brooms as in electing a government that will pull parties together to soberly guide the country through hard times.

The Press:

Clark has said this election will be one of trust. If this is so, then the question for voters will be who do you trust in the turbulent world we now face? With these tax cuts, and with some detail of its longer-term economic plans, National has placed its cards on the table. It has produced figures to show that its plans are fiscally responsible. Voters must decide whether Key and his colleagues can be trusted to deliver on them, or whether Labour can be trusted to manage difficult times as well as good ones.

The Timaru Herald: 

AS the economic news darkens by the day, voters’ thinking towards the election should also be changing. This should not be an election with any emphasis on such relatively trivial issues as the anti-smacking legislation, electoral spending, Winston Peters, the fate of the Maori seats, or how Helen Clark and John Key look. The vital issue is who should lead New Zealand through the economic storms ahead.

. . . But has Labour’s economic management been that flash? It is easy to sail in the fair weather that the New Zealand economy has enjoyed over the last nine years. Dr Cullen has not been exposed to a financial storm. And voters told that their tax cuts pose a risk to the economy will wonder why they didn’t benefit through the good times.

. . .There is little left in the budget pot over the next three years for grandiose plans, and parties that make such promises should be treated with disdain. Now is not the time to throw open the public purse for other than essential spending.

Who do we trust? The party which got us into this mess, or the one with a plan to stimulate economic growth which is the best way to get us out of it?


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