Observers responsible but not judges?

September 15, 2011

The Crimes Amendment Bill (No 2) which aims to protect vulnerable children from abuse and neglect passed its second reading on Tuesday.

It creates a new offence of failing to take reasonable steps to protect a child or vulnerable adult from the risk of death, grievous bodily harm, or sexual assault, with a maximum penalty of 10 years’ imprisonment.

Justice Minister Simon Power said:

“New Zealand has a shameful history of child abuse and this bill will make an example of adults who put their interests before those of the vulnerable children around them,” Mr Power said.

“This bill sends a very clear message that it’s no longer okay for people to turn a blind eye.”

Mr Power said a parent or person over 18 may be found liable if they have frequent contact with the victim, and:

  • They are a member of the same household as the victim.
  • Though they do not live in the same household, they are so closely connected with it that they are regarded as a member of it.
  • They are a staff member of a hospital or institution where the victim resides.

On top of that, the bill doubles the maximum penalty for cruelty to a child from five years to 10 years’ imprisonment and extends the offence to include vulnerable adults – those in care because of their age, detention, sickness, or mental impairment.

We do have a shameful record of abuse and neglect and that makes the case of the comedian whose name is suppressed who was discharged without conviction after pleading  guilty even more puzzling.

If I understand this correctly, had this bill been enacted, the mother of the child involved who laid the complaint would have committed an offense had she stayed silent.

If an adult who doesn’t act when they know a chid is being abused or neglected is wrong, how can a judge say the consequences of a conviction for someone who admits offending would outweigh the gravity of the offence?


Valedictory schedule

September 14, 2011

Acting Leader of the House Simon Power advises that Parliament’s Business Committee has agreed to the following schedule for MPs’ retiring from Parliament to present their valedictory statements:

Tuesday 27 September

5:45pm            Sue Kedgley

Wednesday 28 September

5:30pm            Hon. Mita Ririnui

5:45pm            Keith Locke

Thursday 29 September

5:00pm            Dr Ashraf Choudhary

5:15pm            Hon. Heather Roy

5:30pm            Hon. Sir Roger Douglas

5:45pm            Hon. George Hawkins

Tuesday 4 October

5:15pm            Lynne Pillay

5:30pm            Hon. Pete Hodgson

5:45pm            Hon. Jim Anderton

Wednesday 5 October

5:00pm            Sandra Goudie

5:15pm            Hon. Georgina te Heuheu

5:30pm            Hon. Dr Wayne Mapp

5:45pm            Hon. Simon Power


Offender levy helps crime victims

August 24, 2011

The $50 offender levy has provided 2,091 grants and service for crime victims in its first year:

Since July last year, the levy has been imposed on all convicted offenders at the time of sentencing, regardless of the crime they commit. The levy is collected after reparation but before fines, and is in addition to any sentence or court order.

The levy was originally used to fund eight new entitlements and services for victims of serious crime, but five were added after the levy collected nearly double its first-year target of $2 million.

Justice Minister Simon Power pointed out that victims of crime find themselves in the criminal justice system through no fault of their own and the offender levy helps them through a very difficult time.

In its first year the levy paid out $1.64 million in services and entitlements for victims of crime and their families, including:

Families affected by homicide

• 296 people affected by homicide received assistance from the Homicide Support Service, which provides practical and emotional support throughout the criminal justice process.
• 96 grants were given to families to help with the loss of income and costs incurred immediately after the homicide.
• 322 family members received the $124 per day High Court attendance grant to help cover the loss of income incurred during High Court trials.
• 33 families received assistance with funeral or memorial service costs.
• 319 family members received assistance for expenses (such as travel, childcare, and accommodation) to help them attend court proceedings and Parole Board hearings.

Victims of sexual violence

• 298 victims received a one-off discretionary grant to cover immediate costs following a sexual assault.
• 539 victims were assisted by the Sexual Violence Court Support Service, which gives victims of sexual violence access to a trained and experienced victim adviser during the criminal court process.

Victims of serious crime

• 188 victims received assistance for expenses (such as travel, childcare, and accommodation) to help them attend court proceedings and Parole Board hearings.

Mr Power said the Offender Levy is an important part of the Government’s ongoing drive to put victims at the heart of the criminal justice system.

It is sobering to think there are so many victims but good the justice system now offers them more help and that it I’d funded by those who commit the crimes.

 


MPs can agree when it matters

August 12, 2011

Our parliamentary system tends to be adversorial and we see a lot more of MPs at odds than in agreement.

However, yesterday there was unaninimity on two important pieces of legislation.

The first was the Electoral (Administration) Amendment Bill (No 2) 

The Bill, introduced by Justice Minister Simon Power,  establishes a new Electoral Commission, which will be a one-stop shop for electoral matters.

“I’m pleased that the Government’s electoral law reform programme, including the rewrite of controversial electoral finance laws, has attracted the wide support of Parliament,” Mr Power said.

“Such cross-party support will help to ensure New Zealand’s electoral laws are enduring.”

Unlike the Electoral Finance Act which was driven by ideology, caused division and was dumped when the government changed, this one is driven by common sense, has cross party support and so will endure.

The second piece of legislation which passed unanimously was the  Child and Family Protection Bill.

This was also introduced by the Justice Minister and is to protect child victims of family violence. It:

• Clarifies that when a protected person dies, their children will remain protected. This will avoid any legal confusion at a time when a grieving family is already under stress.
• Makes it clear that protecting children from all forms of violence – a principle of the Care of Children Act 2004 – includes protection from psychological abuse and direct and indirect abuse.
• Ensures that a child of a protection-order applicant will continue to be protected if they live at home past the age of 17.
• Ensures a focus on the best interests of the child by giving parents an opportunity to review care and contact arrangements soon after a temporary protection order is made.
• Avoids any opportunity for a lapse between a temporary order and a final protection order coming into effect which could have resulted in a victim having no protection.
• Makes it easier to obtain protection for children at risk of unlawful removal from New Zealand.
• Creates a new offence in the Adoption Act 1955 for improper inducement of consent to an adoption, punishable by up to seven years’ imprisonment. This enables New Zealand to ratify the Second Optional Protocol to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, and ensures New Zealand is meeting its international obligations to protect children from economic and sexual exploitation.

This is very different from electoral reform but it is also too important for political posturing.

If only there was similar agreement on what caused the  3,867 domestic violence cases in the Family Court which each involved at least one child in the 2009/10 year and how to solve them.


Te Heuheu to retire

May 10, 2011

National cabinet Minister Georgina te Heuheu has announced she will retire from parliament at the end of this term.

“Now is a good time to go. The National Party is in good heart. It has strong leadership. The National Government has outlined a credible programme for New Zealand’s future, and it’s now time for family and friends.

“I came in under MMP at a time when the National Government had embarked on an ambitious programme to settle Treaty injustices and to work to lift Māori participation in the economy and society. I’m proud to have been part of this key policy direction as I strongly believe it has set the course for a strong and enduring future for all New Zealanders.

“I have had 15 great years as a Member of the National Party Caucus. I have served under three Prime Ministers. Jim Bolger was Prime Minister when I came in and I have had the privilege to serve twice in Cabinet, first under Jenny Shipley and now under John Key.

“During that time I have had the opportunity of contributing to some very challenging issues that go to the heart of who we are as New Zealanders, including promoting the reconciliation of the interests of Māori and their fellow New Zealanders.

“I’ve endeavoured to do this by promoting reasoned debate and hopefully, exercising a degree of calm, and quiet determination.

“I am very proud to have served in the current Cabinet in this term. John Key has a very keen sense of what it takes to build a dynamic, inclusive society and I’ll be working hard up to the election to ensure he gets the chance to carry that leadership on for our country.

“I also hope New Zealanders give him a good mandate to pursue a vision for New Zealand that recognises that every New Zealander has an important role to play in building a strong nation.

“Politics is a brutal game at times. I have tried to focus on the issues rather than personalities. Politics can be all-encompassing and often you forget there are other things in life.

“I know there are other challenges out there, but for now I’m looking forward to going home and enjoying my family. I only hope they’re looking forward to the same thing.”

Mrs te Heuheu entered parliament as a list MP in the first MMP election in 1996.

She was the first Maori woman to gain a law degree from Victoria University and  and be admitted to the High Court as Barrister and Solicitor.

She practised law in Wellington and Rotorua before becoming an MP.

Her career in politics saw her become the first Maori woman to gain election as an MP for the National Party; the first Maori woman to chair the Maori Affairs Select Committee, and only the second Maori woman to be appointed to a New Zealand Cabinet.

Her ministerial portfolios from 1998 to 1999 were Minister of Women’s Affairs, Associate Minister for Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations and Associate Minister of Health.

She is now Minister for Courts, Pacific Island Affairs, Disarmament and Arms Control and Associate Minister of Maori Affairs.

Prime Minister John Key said:

“I want to thank Georgina for the contribution she has made in her career in national politics over the last 15 years, and also for her public service in a myriad of other roles.

“In particular I want to record my appreciation for the role Mrs te Heuheu has played over the years in helping to grow the relationship between iwi and the National Party,” says Mr Key.

Two other ministers, Simon Power and Wayne Mapp, have announced they are retiring at the end of this term; Richard Worth and Pansy Wong have already stood down and Coromandel MP Sandra Goudie has announced she will retire in November too.

Having a turn over of Ministers and MPs is good for the health of the party. It makes it much easier to refresh caucus and cabinet without putting any noses out of joint.


Leaders don’t win or lose alone

March 30, 2011

Election campaigns have become more and more presidential with most attention on party leaders.

That focus on the leaders continues between elections too but a leader doesn’t win or lose alone.

The seeds of National’s defeat in 1999 were sown before the 1990 election when Jim Bolger made stupid promises which were then not kept. Those seeds were fertilised before the 1996 election when too many MPs whose seats disappeared with the reduction in the number of electorates stayed on as list MPs.

Having failed to jump before the 1999 election many of those MPs were pushed in the 2002 one. Not only were many of them the tired face of National which the electorate had rejected three years before, many weren’t united behind the leader. The involuntary clean-out in the election provided the foundation for rebuilding which enabled the party to win in 2008.

Labour is following a similar path. It has had some refreshment but not enough.  Parties need a balance between experience and freshness and it hasn’t got it.

It’s led by one of the longest-serving MPs in parliament and too many of his caucus are associated with the people and policies which lost voters’ support over successive terms. Further more they have done too little to persuade the public they have new and better ideas for running the country again.

MPs will have many reasons for clinging to their seats, the good of the party isn’t usually one of them.

The influx of new MPs in 2005 and 2008 refreshed the National caucus. Involuntary resignations by Richard Worth and Pansy Wong and decisions not to stand again by John Carter, Wayne Mapp, Simon Power and Sandra Goudie has provided the opportunity for several new faces in the next term.

All the blame for Labour’s dysfunction is being laid at Phil Goff’s door. He’s made mistakes but his caucus members need to look at themselves too. Sticking with him because there is no viable alternative isn’t a resounding vote of confidence in him which the electorate shares. But a lack of unity and refusal to stand aside by some of the longer-serving or more ineffectual MPs is also part of the problem.

Ranking the list is never an easy job and the number of tired old faces among the sitting MPs will make it even harder for Labour this time. However, if its MPs and the party don’t make some hard choices about who stays and who goes themselves, voters will do it for them as they did for National in 2002.


Power Trans Tasman’s politician of year

November 29, 2010

Simon Power tops Trans Tasman’s 2010 roll call of politicians and is named their politician of the year.

Power gets the top ranking thanks to his towering performance in Parliament and the sheer volume of the legislative work he has done. He has taken more Bills through Parliament than any other Minister, accounting for one third of the Government’s legislation in 2010. He is the lock to Key’s flashier winger’s performance. Trans Tasman says of Power “An outstanding Minister. Huge workload includes reforming the Justice system and market regulation as well as law reform. He is looking more and more like a leader in waiting.”

He gets 9 out of 10 in the roll call as does John Key who also scored 9 last year.

Bill English, who has just celebrated the 20th anniversary of entering parliament, went up from 8 to 8.5 and was commended for the work he has done on tax reform and steering the country through the worst recession since the 1930s.

Honourable mention must also be made of Gerry Brownlee who has had another strong year in trying circumstances. “Brownlee gives the impression he is growing into the job, his media management has improved and so has his running of Parliament as leader of the House.” He stays on a rating of 8 out 10.

Other Ministers to go up in the ratings are Tony Ryall, to 8.5, Nick Smith, to 8, Judith Collins to 7.5, Chris Finlayson to 7.5, David Carter to 7, Murray McCully to 8, Tim Groser to 7.5 (no love lost between that pair), Wayne Mapp to 6 and Kate Wilkinson to 5.

Among MPs whose score improved this year was Eric Roy who was described as: 

An Associate Speaker who handles the House with patience and good grace, and this often isn’t easy. His experience is respected, his demeanour is appreciated.

On the whole National scored better than Labour.

For the Record, 30 National MPs managed to boost their scores this year, 13 stayed on the same score and 15 went down.

For Labour a much better performance – last year not one MP improved on their 2008 score. This year 26 of the 42 boosted their scores, 10 stayed the same and 5 went down.

National managed to get 32 of its 58 MPs over the 5 mark this year, improving on the 20 who made it last year – 26 of them were under the 5 mark. For Labour another relatively low scoring year, with just 15 MPs over 5 out of the Party’s complement of 42 – 26 rated below 5.

Some MPs will feel undervalued by their ranking and assessment. The judgement is made by Trans Tasman’s Editors on the basis of MPs’ performance in Caucus, Cabinet, Committee, The House and Electorate and the influence they bring to bear in their various forums. Roll Call is compiled by Trans Tasman’s team of writers and Parliamentary insiders, with a final decision on each ranking arrived at after much discussion.

I don’t know these people but I have no doubt about their knowledge and impartiality. However, as my previous post pointed out good electorate MPs do a lot of hard work which may be appreciated by those they help but largely goes unnoticed by anyone else.

Some of those not particularly well ranked have very good majorities which shows their constituents value them more highly than the pundits do.


Justice no longer delayed

November 16, 2010

Justice delayed is justice denied and bottle necks in our courts are a growing problem.

Justice Minister Simon Power has released plans to streamline proceedings including:

  • Requiring the defence to identify and disclose issues in dispute before a trial. This is estimated to result in a savings of 450 court days a year, or 10% of the expected total trial sitting time under the new regime
  • Allowing courts to proceed in the absence of a defendant if the court is not satisfied the defendant has a reasonable excuse for their absence.
  • Requiring the court to take into account a defendant’s compliance with procedural matters as a mitigating or aggravating factor at sentencing.
  • Allowing the court to impose cost orders against the prosecution, defendant, and defence counsel if it’s satisfied they have failed, without reasonable excuse, to comply with a procedural requirement.
  • Allowing greater flexibility to continue with a trial when jury numbers fall to 10.
  • Ensuring guilty pleas are entered as early as practicable to help avoid unnecessary delay.
  • Promoting out-of-court discussions between parties so there are fewer adjournments and shorter hearings.
  • Reserving jury trials for the most serious and complex cases, including by raising the threshold for a defendant electing a jury trial from crimes carrying a penalty of more than three months’ to those carrying more than three years’ imprisonment. This is expected to cut the jury trial workload by 300 to 600 trials a year (a reduction of 25-45% in the jury trial workload).

He said  the changes have the potential to free up 16,000 court sitting hours each year by delivering benefits which include:

  • 43,000 fewer court events. 
  • 1,000 to 1,400 fewer cases that need to be designated for trial by jury. 
  • 300 to 600 fewer cases that actually proceed to a jury trial. 
  • Shaving about 13 weeks off the time it takes for a jury trial case in the District Court or High Court to go through the pipeline from the time charges are laid to completion.
  • Savings of about $24.3 million over a five-year period.

“I’m a strong believer that justice delayed is justice denied, and this bill will ensure that timely justice is delivered for victims, witnesses, defendants, and the community.

“The key legislation currently in place dates back to the 1950s and has been subject to years of ad hoc reform.

“It’s been clear for some time that the excessive costs, the undue delays, and the needless complexities which govern criminal procedure needed to be addressed.

“We cannot continue to mask delays and inefficiencies in criminal procedure by simply building more courthouses and appointing more judges.

“I’m committed to improving the criminal justice system, particularly for those who find themselves in it through no fault of their own, while maintaining a defendant’s right to a fair trial.

“I’m confident this bill will achieve both.”

 Delays aren’t fair to the accused, victims or witnesses. They add to the costs in both financial and emotional terms.

These changes, at first reading, look like they’ll stop unnecessary delays without prejudicing the right to a fair trial.

If not, people with concerns will have an opportunity to add safeguards during the select committee process.


This is why name suppression law must change

October 5, 2010

On the day Justice Minister Simon Power announced name suppression laws are to be changed  so it is harder to get we got  a very good example of why they need to be.

Two people have been charged with fraud after police investigated voting irregularities.

They applied for name suppression, which was declined. They then applied to the High Court which granted suppression for 48 hours.

However, before that happened the names were published on blogs and Twitter.

Those posts have now been hidden or deleted but many will have already read them.

 I came across the names on an RSS feed before I knew they’d been suppressed. It doesn’t make any difference to me but it could to people elsewhere. Their right to know appears to trump the accused people’s right to suppression but the names are suppressed, at least until Thursday.

I doubt if the people charged would get suppression under the proposed law change. This case is a very good example of why the change is needed.


Online re-enrolment next year, online voting when?

September 17, 2010

Justice Minister Simon Power is to introduce legislation enabling voters to re-enrol and update their details online in time for next year’s general election. 

Cabinet has decided that legislation to be introduced to Parliament in November, is the first step in a process that will also eventually allow voters to use the Internet to enrol for the first time.

Currently, voters have to complete and sign a written form when enrolling and making changes to their details.

The Electoral (Administration) Amendment Bill No.2 allows voters to re-enrol and make changes to their details online using the ‘igovt’ government logon service, which is run by the Department of Internal Affairs. This will take effect from the middle of next year when the legislation is expected to be passed.

The changes will also ensure that all electoral enrolment offences include Internet-based acts.

The Government will also give voters the option of enrolling online, subject to a satisfactory trial of the online re-enrolment service.  A programme for full online enrolment will be developed after next year’s election and introduced in separate legislation.

“Taking advantage of the Internet will make it as simple as possible for people to participate in elections,” Mr Power said.

“In particular, it will make enrolling more accessible to people aged between 18 and 24 who make up approximately 40 per cent of un-enrolled eligible voters.”

 It is sensible to make use of technology providing there are safeguards which enable verification of identity.

Young people are more likely to use online enrolment. They’re also more likely to shift addresses between elections and enrolment packs may not catch up with even if they’ve left a forwarding address.

Full online enrolment will use a robust identify verification service (IVS) which is under development by the Department of Internal Affairs.

“The identify verification service will require voters to provide proof of identity before completing sensitive online transactions with government agencies. 

“The staged roll-out will allow the IVS to be developed in order to make sure the integrity of the electoral system is maintained.”

It’s not a big step from online re-enrolment to online enrolment but it is quite a way from there to online voting.

There’s something about the experience of voting by going to a polling booth with others who are exercising their democratic freedom.

It may also encourage better participation – postal voting for local body elections is cited as one reason participation is much lower than for general elections.

I don’t favour compulsory voting – if we’re free to vote we should also be free to not vote. But robust democracy requires wide participation and online voting could make that easier.


Can’t legislate for a culture change

August 24, 2010

Simon Power’s announcement of  proposed changes to liquor laws has attracted a mixed and predictable response.

Some say they haven’t gone far enough while others resent the curbs on freedom.

Kiwiblog has a good summary of the proposals and reaction to them.

It will be an offence for anyone other than a parent or guardian to provide alcohol to an under-18-year-old without a parent’s or guardian’s consent.

 This should help address some of the problems of youth drinking but John Key got to the nub of the problem when he said:

“The law will certainly help give parents some form of protection in terms of what they do [but] it also demands of them that they apply responsibility as a responsible host.”

. . .  Key said it was ultimately up to parents to demonstrate that they did not want a binge-drinking culture.

“In the end we cannot legislate away New Zealand’s drinking culture,” he said.

Legislation won’t change the culture, only people can do that and it’s not only young people who have an immature attitude to alcohol.

Youth drinking is a problem but alcohol abuse doesn’t always stop when people grow up.

I quoted Theodore Dalrymple on this a few days ago. It bears repeating:

. . .  even if the right legislation were enough by itself to reduce public drunkenness to a level at which it was no longer a social problem it would be a very sad day when we looked only to the Government to make us behave decently, either by means of taxing or prohibiting our loss of self-control.

In the second half of the 19th century drunkenness declined dramatically, not because the government repressed it but because there was a public revulsion against it.

Habitual drunkenness came popularly to be seen as despicable: a man who drank to excess all the time was a bad worker, bad father, bad husband and bad citizen. In our own times we have experienced precisely the  opposite: namely a revulsion against sobriety. In my work as a doctor I used to speak to young people who as often as possible drank to the point of not remembering what they had done or what had  happened to them the night before.

I asked them why they did it, to which they replied that they had to express  themselves, that it would be bad for their health not to. It never occurred to them that the need not to make a public nuisance of themselves trumped any need they might personally have to express themselves, even if we allowed that dead-drunkenness is a form of self-expression.

A nation without sufficient self-respect to control itself  will in the end lose its freedom. Self-control will be replaced by government control. We are already far enough down that road.

Legislation won’t change the culture that finds drunkenness normal, acceptable and even amusing.

Until and unless drunkenness and the problems which result from it are regarded as abnormal,  unacceptable and abhorrent we’ll have more government control.

 That  is a poor substitute for self-control and will largely be addressing symptoms rather than causes.


Much more than management

May 30, 2010

“Being in government doesn’t just mean managing. It means changing and putting right things we identify as being wrong.”

Commerce and Justice Minister, Simon Power.


Why National?

April 29, 2010

Why National?  Young Country asked Justice Minister Simon Power.

He answered:

. . .  I have a fundamental belief that governments should leave people alone, and that the role of the state should be relatively small, and that the state should not be in you life more than it needs to be.

New Zealanders have this natural aversion to being told what to do by governments, both local and central, and I’m pretty much in that camp.

He was also asked to give one piece of advice to a young rural person.

His answer was:

 . . . “Don’t underestimate the impact they can have on the way governments and economies operate if they are going to step up and say their piece.”

My experience with listening to what farmers have to say, whether it is at the saleyards, pub or wherever, they tend to be understated but very, very smart. Their instincts are almost 100% right on where the country should be heading.

The other thing to remember is what good advocates farmers are. So when they come to talk about an issue with me, they have very compelling cases to make due to being well-structured and having thoroughly thought through the process.

Young Country was launched last year.

 It was a brave move, given the recession, but it seems to have hit the spot and not just with its target audience of younger country people. Lots of us not so young ones find it good reading too.

(And no, I don’t have shares in the company or work for the magazine, I’m just an appreciative subscriber).


Electoral Finance law reform announced

February 16, 2010

Justice Minister Simon Power has announced the government’s reform package for electoral finance law.

He said:

 “The package comes after extended consultation with all parliamentary parties and the public.

“As a result, Cabinet has decided to progress reforms only where there is broad public and political support.

“If we are to have a system which is fair, workable, enduring, and in place before the 2011 election, broad consensus is essential.”

Proposal in the package include: 

  • Require disclosure of the total amount of donations that parties receive in bands.
  • Increase the amount of money that parties and candidates can spend on election campaigning at the rate of inflation for each general election.
  • Require people who spend more than $12,000 on parallel campaigning to register with the Electoral Commission. The register will be publicly available to ensure openness and transparency concerning the identities of parallel campaigners.
  • Bring more certainty to what counts as ‘election advertising’ by modernising the definition and requiring the Electoral Commission to issue guidance and advisory opinions about election advertisements.
  • Clarify the relationship between the Electoral Act 1993 and Parliamentary Service legislation.
  • Maintain the regulated campaign period to be three months before polling day.

The acknowledgement that broad consensus is necessary is a very good start. One of the many problems with the mess Labour made of electoral finance changes was bulldozing them through without wide support.

Increasing the amount which parties and candidates can spend with inflation is sensible.

So is bringing more certainty to what counts as election advertising and requiring the Electoral Commission to issue guidance and advisory opinions. Confusion about what was permitted and what wasn’t and fear of getting it wrong restrained free expression before the last election.

Returning the regulated period to three months before polling day rather than from January 1 of an election year is also a good move. Although I’d add, or from the announcement of the election if that is less than three months from polling day.

Related to that is clarifying the relationship between the Electoral Act and parliamentary Service legislation – we must not have a repeat of the pledge card and other rorts where parties and MPs campaigned with public money.

More information ont he review is available at the Justice Ministry.

UPDATE: Kiwiblog says consensus is the right way to approach the issue reform but it kills most meaningful electoral finance reform.


Getting it right from the start

December 19, 2009

Prevention is always better than cure and that’s the aim of  taking a whole of government approach to addressing the factors which lead to crime.

Justice Minister Simon Power and Maori Affairs Minister Pita Sharples said there will be an initial approach on four areas:

Antenatal, maternity, and early parenting support.
• Programmes to address behavioural problems in young children.
• Reducing the harm caused by alcohol.
• Alternative approaches to managing low-level offenders, and offering pathways out of offending.

A Ministerial Meeting on the Drivers of Crime in April, hosted by the Ministers reached a broad agreement that the drivers of crime are complex, social, inter-generational, and require early intervention.

Power said:

“Though responsibility for reducing crime sits with justice-sector agencies, many of the tools to address the drivers of crime are in other sectors, such as health, education, parenting support, housing, recreation, and economic, social and community development.

“The focus will be on improving outcomes by tackling fragmentation, ensuring ministerial and chief executive co-ordination and leadership of the work programme, improving value for money, and improving the relationship between government and the community.”

 Sharples said:

“Far too many Maori end up in our youth justice and prison facilities, wasting the most productive years of their lives. Far too many Maori are victims of crime. And far too many Maori children grow up in households and communities disrupted by crime and punishment.

“Anything we can do to promote Maori control over their own destiny, community strength and resilience, and pro-social behaviour by Maori will reduce crime overall, and help improve the social and economic position of Maori in the long term.”

Mr Power said the factors that drive crime also contribute to other negative outcomes, such as being a victim of crime, poor health, early school leaving, and unemployment.

“This means efforts to reduce crime cannot be pursued separately from efforts to address other social harms, but need to be part of a co-ordinated response across sectors.

“Several other Ministers are already leading work that could make a significant contribution to addressing the drivers of crime.

Celia Lashlie got in to trouble for describing a young boy who would grow up to be a murderer. But poverty, poor parental education, drug and alcohol abuse  and other factors which give children a poor start in life also predispose them to crime.

Taking a whole of government approach from before children are born won’t be easy nor will it be cheap. But it’s an important part of any crime reduction strategy.

Getting things right from the start to prevent children getting in to trouble is preferable to trying to get them on a more positive pathway once they’re in the criminal justice system.


Protecting the vulnerable

December 19, 2009

A bill to strengthen the Crimes Act to deal with violent offending against children, and to modernise the law of assault and injuring, is a welcome move from Justice Minister Simon Power.

The four areas  the bill will deal with are:

  • Assault, injury, and serious injury: a new matrix of offences that consistently address both culpability and consequence.
  • Specific offences: offences with a specific (usually aggravating) feature – eg, assault on a child, setting traps, impeding rescue – are rationalised and updated.
  • Offending against children: a new offence of failing to protect a child or vulnerable adult, and reform of other offences dealing with offending against children.
  • Endangering, negligent injury and culpable homicide: a hierarchy of offences that address the range of outcomes arising from grossly negligent behaviour, whether death, injury, or risk of injury results.

“The new offence of failing to protect a child or vulnerable adult will hold accountable household members who fail to notify authorities of a child or vulnerable adult suffering abuse.

“Legislation will ensure it will no longer be an excuse to say you were not involved in abusing a child – the fact that you lived in the household and knew of abuse makes you involved.

Sometimes the people who watch and do nothing are victims of violence and abuse themselves.

But to do nothing when a child or vulnerable adult is being abused is to be complicit in the act.

“The commission also recommended repealing the specific assaults of male assaults female and assault on a child. But, at a time when the Government is working to discourage domestic violence, it would be inappropriate to repeal these offences.

I understand the thinking behind the recommendation. Violence isn’t the sole preserve of men but repealing these acts when there is such a need to counter domestic violence would send mixed messages.


Deciding how to vote

October 20, 2009

Justice Minister Simon Power has announced that the first referendum on MMP will be held with the 2011 election.

We’ll be asked if we want the status quo or a change and then which of the alternatives we’d prefer.

If a majority want a change a second referendum between the system which gets the most votes and MMP will be held with the 2014 election.

Cabinet hasn’t yet drafted the questions to be included in the first referendum, the alternate electoral systems to be offered, and how that referendum will be conducted.

I hope they’ll consider using preferential voting for the second part when we’re being asked to decide between different systems.

When too many people still don’t understand how MMP works the information campaigns on alternatives will be interesting.

If you’re interested in testing your understanding of MMP, the Electoral Commission has a quiz here and an advanced quiz here.

I got 9/9 in the first but only 7/9 in the advanced one.


Bridging the Tasman

October 14, 2009

It is often cheaper to fly across the Tasman than it is to fly between the North and South Islands.

New Zealand is closer to the east coast of Australia than much of the rest of the country.

We speak more or less the same language, have similar cultures and the many things we have in common are more important than the few which divide us.

Australia is our nearest significant neighbour and provides a market about five times bigger than we have at home.

There is no doubt we need them but the traffic is not all one way, Australia needs us too.

If it is to have the influence and power in the South Pacific to which it aspires, our co-operation and support are essential.

We both have a lot to gain and little to loose from bridging the Tasman and the single economic market to which the government is committed is a vital plank in the bridge.

Commerce Minister Simon Power reiterated the importance of a seamless operating market for Australian and New Zealand businesses in a speech at the Institute of International Affairs seminar.

“Our ambition is that a New Zealand company can conduct its business as easily in Australia as it can at home, and vice-versa,” Mr Power said.

“The easier we can make it for companies to operate in both New Zealand and Australia by removing unnecessary barriers, the greater the opportunities for business to make substantive productivity gains and take up new opportunities that will underpin long-term business growth.”

He said the government has identified a framework of principles and outcomes for accelerating the benefits for business which include:

  • Enabling trans-Tasman businesses to file company information only once while meeting the requirements of both governments.
  • Establishing a single set of accounting standards.
  • Establishing a single insolvency proceeding.
  • Further exploring the sharing of competition and consumer regulations, and cross representation on the New Zealand Commerce Commission and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.

Changes in immigration and customs controls have made the trip between Australia and New Zealand faster and easier for people. The changes Power is aiming for will make Trans Tasman business easier too.


Electoral finance reform

September 29, 2009

The process for the reform of electoral finance is so much better than it was for the now ex-Electoral Finance Act.

Aiming to get good law rather than handicap the opposition is a good start; and consultation, discussion and genuine attempts to get cross-party support ought to result in something fairer and enduring.

Justice Minister Simon Power has released a proposal document for discussion.

* Broadcasting allocation – I don’t support any public funding of political parties and their activities. Whether or not there is any public funding, parties, other groups and individuals should be free to spend their own money on broadcasting should they choose to do so.

* MPs’ work vs electioneering:

The Parliamentary Service Commission is considering these issues as part of the process for developing a permanent definition of funding entitlements for parliamentary purposes in the Parliamentary Service Act 2000; in addition, the Speaker of the House has recently convened a cross-party committee that has developed a public disclosure regime for Parliamentary Service funding.  

 The Government proposes to ensure consistency between the Parliamentary Service Commission’s work and the work undertaken as part of the electoral finance reform by raising the suggestions made in the submissions with this cross-party committee for further consideration.

It is often difficult to distinguish between parliamentary activities and electioneering. During the election period any advertising which is paid for by Parliamentary Services should be restricted to factual information which helps constituents such as electorate office hours.

* Campaign expenditure limits haven’t changed since 1995. they need to be raised to take account of bigger electorates which were established by MMP and be adjusted for inflation.

* Regulated campaign period – should not advantage the governing party and should not be retrospective.

* Disclosing identity of promoter – requiring a real name is reasonable. I am not sure why it is necessary to also have an address on the material, especially for parties which all have registered offices.

Other discussion on the proposals can be found at Kiwiblog  , SOLO (where Lindsay Perigo is not impressed),  Not PC (who agrees with Lindsay; and Monkeywithtypewriter (who applauds the cross-party approach)


Please tell me it isn’t so – updated & updated again

April 7, 2009

Trans Tasman is reporting that Michael Cullen will be appointed to chair NZ Post and KiwiBank when Jim Bolger retires.

A loyal National Party member has just phoned to tell me he and others who spent nine years working to get Cullen’s hands off the reins are furious about this and I share their views.

There must be someone better equipped for these roles than the man who overtaxed and over spent for nine long years, leaving our economy far less able to weather the recession than it would have been had his policies been directed at growth rather than redistribution.

SOEs have been underperforming and need highly skilled leadership and that requires someone with a far greater regard for other people’s money than Cullen.

When the idea of Cullen chairing an SOE was  first mooted, blue tinted bloggers were united in their opposition. If the first to react are any indication they haven’t changed their minds: 

Fairfacts Media asks what is John Key playing at?

Kiwiblog says it’s a crappy move

UPDATE: SOE Minister Simon Power has announced:

“Hon Dr Michael Cullen has been appointed to the board of New Zealand Post, and is expected to become deputy chair in the medium term. 

UPDATE 2:

Fairfacts Media thinks Cullen deputising Bolger is too good to be true

At No Minsiter Psycho Milt  is amused but Lou Taylor isn’t.

Keeping Stock thinks John Key is up to something

UPDATE 3:

Roarprawn reckons it’s a poisoned chalice.

Cactus Kate was forced to seek solace in oysters and Moet

Barnsley Bill’s vote has been lost  and Not PC wonders why  he gave it to National anyway.

Whaleoil is disgusted then has second thoughts  and thinks John Key has snookered Labour.

UPDATE 4:

The red rag was thrown and the blue blogs roared, but what if we’re wrong and it’s really a cunning plot?

Fairfacts Media doesn’t think the job’s as good as it looks.

Anti Dismal  has a better idea – sell the SOEs.

UPDATE 5:

at NZ Conservative Zen Tiger spots a pirate plot  and muses on the relevance of history

Macdcotor advises Cullen not to trip on the way out.

At Tumeke!  Tim Selwyn thinks it’s unbelievable.


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