Friday, November 30, 2007

Annette King Defends the Indefensible

Annette King has an op-ed piece in this morning's Dom-Post. I still haven't read yesterday's paper, so I didn't see Bill English's piece yesterday, but will comment later and add links.

In her opening paragraph, King refers to the 2005 election as being closely fought, but ""not a campaign that had been waged on a level playing field". Of course, the Exclusive Brethren get the blame. She then launches into a five-paragraph attack on the National Party, the EB, "big money" and anonymous trusts.

King is right - it wasn't a level playing field. Labour told the Chief Electoral Officer that the pledge card would be included in the election expenditure accounts, and then deliberately and calculatingly changed its mind, effectively campaigning with an additional $800,000 of taxpayer money.

King also accuses the National Party of a campaign of misinformation about the EFB. If she or her predecessor, lame-duck "sacked" Justice Minister Mark Burton cannot (or will not) answer legitiamte questions about the EFB in the House and elsewhere; if the Human Rights Commission, the New Zealand Law Society, the Society of Accountants and even the Electoral Commission cannot make sense of the Bill, even AFTER consideration and amendment by the Select Committee - how can she accuse the National Party of misinformation? The bottom line is - NOBODY knows how much this legislation will inhibit free speech in the electoral process - and that is a frightening prospect.

Lastly, King implies that opposition to the EFB is confined to the National Party and its supporters. Our "friends" at The Standard, that wonderful blog of the union movement, the last bastion of freedom of speech and freedom of thought, are big on disclosure. Today, so am I, so here goes:

* I am NOT a member of the National Party, nor any other political party. I was last a member of the National party prior to the 1999 election.
* Until July 2006, I was a paid-up, card-carrying member of the EPMU.
* My wife and I own and manage an education service.
* I am a Christian, but NOT a member of the Exclusive Brethren church. The views expressed on Keeping Stock are mine, and mine alone.
* I receive no revenue from blogging, and no remuneration or compensation from any political party or other organisation for my opposition to the Electoral Finance Bill.
* I choose to blog anonymously, and will continue to do so.
* I have made a financial contribution to the Free Speech Coalition.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Just Another Day for Corrections

The Corrections Department is in the news today, and for all the wrong reasons. In no particular order, here's three stories in today's Herald.

Headline #1) - Parole Board kept in dark over the 'real' Burton

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/section/1/story.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10478557

The inquest has started into the assassination of Karl Kuchenbecker by paroled murderer Graeme Burton. And the Wellington Coroner, Garry Evans has been told that crucial information about Burton's risk of reoffending was withheld from the Parole Board when it considered Burton's application for Parole. Here's an extract from the Herald article:

The court was told that while preparing an assessment of Burton's risk of reoffending, a psychologist learned there were allegations he had been involved in recent violent episodes in prison.

Nick Lascelles, a clinical psychologist contracted to the Corrections Department's psychological services, was asked to assess Burton's risk of reoffending for the Parole Board.

Mr Lascelles said that during the assessment process he was told of allegations that Burton had assaulted three other inmates and had offered $8000 to another prisoner to do "a hit" on a guard.

A variety of clinical assessment tools found Burton had a moderate to high risk of reoffending.
Previously his risk had been assessed as "very high".

In his interviews with Burton, Mr Lascelles found there had been some apparent improvement - Burton maintained a pleasant demeanour and showed some insight into ways of managing his anger.
But Mr Lascelles noted that if the violence allegations were found to have substance this showed there had been no change in Burton's behaviour.

He flagged these matters in his report to the board and offered it two scenarios and conclusions on Burton's risk - with the ultimate assessment depending on whether the violence allegations were true.

"Given those allegations I did not support Mr Burton being released," Mr Lascelles told the court.
He said portions of his report appeared to have been taken out of context.

Katrina Casey, the Corrections Department's general manager of community probation and psychological services, told the court that information about the allegations against Burton was not in the report to the Parole Board, and should have been.

A prison manager had given information to Mr Lascelles and expected the board would seek more information from jail staff, but this was an incorrect approach, she said.


"The information should have been put in front of the board."


Whilst not surprising, this revelation is disgraceful. It's too late to call for Damian O'Conner's head, but Corrections CEO, Barry Matthews should be offering his resignation. We've all heard the weasel words from O'Connor and Matthews about it being more honourable to stay around and make changes, but two people have died needlessly under their watch, and there needs to be accountability at the highest level. Phil Goff must act, and act swiftly and decisively, and using Annette King's logic, the only "common-sense" outcome is a change in leadership for Corrections.

Headline #2 - Inquiries launched into brawl at Corrections party

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/section/1/story.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10478588

OK, we've all been to Christmas parties where people get trashed and do things they later regret, but did the Corrections Dept really need this kind of press today? Corrections is still labouring (pardon the pun!) under the label of of a corrupt Department run by thugs (remember the Goon Squad?), and this kind of news will do nothing to diminish that perception.

Headline #3 - Number of public servants up 5 per cent - survey

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/section/1/story.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10478516

Poor Corrections Dept can't win! Now they are to blame for the increase in public service jobs! Sure, three new prisons have opened in recent times, but as I asked our friend Sam "actually, I DO have a law degree" Dixon over at Kiwiblog a few minutes ago:

"Sam - if:
* fewer people are being sentenced to prison (or will be) given the new sentencing options open to judges, and,
* fewer offenders will be remanded in custody (murder accuseds included) due to new bail laws which are weighted in favour of accused offenders, and,
* overall crime rates have declined under Labour (oft quoted by yourself, Tane and The Standard
why the need to build three new prisons, all of which ran considerably over budget?
"



So, to conclude, it hasn't been a great start to the day for the Corrections Dept, and I'm sure Phil Goff will wish he'd stayed in bed this morning!

Monday, November 26, 2007

Mallard in Strife Again?

Poor old Trevor Mallard - 2007 certainly has been his "annus horribilis"! Not only did he preside, as Minister for Sport, before his demotion/promotion, such disappointments as the Cricket and Rugby World Cups and the Americas Cup, but also suffered a marriage break-up and the loss of his father (having been through both, I truly have sympathy for him) - and of course, the furore over his assault of Tau Henare, and the lecture from the PM that followed. So just when you thought that 2007 had been the pits for Trevor, and it couldn't get any worse, it has!

Stuff is today reporting that the inquiry into the Clare Curran debacle at the Environment Ministry is to be widened - here's the link: http://www.stuff.co.nz/4287822a6160.html

So why is this a problem for Trevor? Well, you see, Trevor got very nasty in the House on last week after former Comms staffer at the EM, Erin Leigh blew the whistle on the circumstances of Curran's appointment. And maybe Trevor went a bit far calling Ms Leigh "sad" and "incompetent". Stuff tells it this way:

"On Thursday, Mr Mallard said Ms Curran was brought in because Ms Leigh was incompetent - a smear understood to have caught the Beehive by surprise.

Two former bosses of Ms Leigh while she was at the ministry have since said there was no problem with her work - including former communications manager Neal Cave who said she was the best he had ever worked with.

She also released references and tributes yesterday from several ministers and officials won during the many years she has worked in government communications roles."

"A smear understood to have taken the Beehive by surprise"? Sounds like Helen Clark is quickly distancing herself from Trevor who must be running out of warnings for being "just Trevor"! Of course, the once-Teflon PM might have been able to brush this off, but all of a sudden, with the EFB debate gaining traction, the media isn't giving her the smooth ride of the early days of her regime. This is another embarrassment for Labour, and yet another reason why the EFB shouldn't be allowed to pass - otherwise who will hold the government to account?

Sunday, November 25, 2007

The Aussie Election

So little Johnnie Howard has been put out to pasture by the voters of Australia - and even by his own electorate it would seem. Will the election of the ALP halt the exodus of Kiwis across the ditch? Or do we not equate Labor in Australia with the arrogant, "we know what's best for you" bunch on this side of the Tassie?

One thing stands out though - this really was the unwinnable election for John Howard - it would seem that the voters have simply got tired of him, and wanted a change - not unlike the position that the New Zealand Labour Party found itself in eight long years ago, and which it will hopefully experience the flip-side of in 2008! And if the writing is on the wall in the early months of 2008, will Helen Clark do a John Howard and stay and fight, or will she pull the plug on her leadership of the NZLP and head for greener (and more lucrative) pastures elsewhere?

Friday, November 23, 2007

The Law of Common-Sense

Annette King has often been described as "a safe pair of hands" in Cabinet, and by and large, she has been one of the better performers in the eight years Labour has been in power. But even she must be wondering what she had done to deserve the hospital pass of the Justice portfolio, and the burden that comes with it (or should that be "Burton"?) of defending the Electoral Finance Bill.

However, you have to admire her sense of innovation - the King Law of Common-Sense. The Herald however wasn't playing her game, and debunked her theory today - here's the link:

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/section/1/story.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10477859

However, the Electoral Commission doesn't agree:

"Helena Catt of the Electoral Commission has said on National Radio that the commission did not want to be "the arbiters of common sense" and yesterday National Party MP Tony Ryall took the chance to tackle Ms King on it in debate, saying the commission's public concerns about the bill showed it had deeper flaws that could not be dismissed as trivial.

"This bill is full of innumerable problems, inconsistencies and difficulties that the law of common sense will not fix. The law of common sense - that new theme of jurisprudence of the last 48 hours - is not going to fix the issues that Helena Catt, the independent public servant in charge of the electoral system, has highlighted in the last 24 hours."

Methinks the officials from the Ministry of Justice will face a busy couple of weeks as they try to make a silk purse out of the sow's ear which is the EFB - just as long as they apply "the law of common-sense"!

Post-script: The Herald article also summarises the stance taken in the EFB Second Reading debate by the major players. And Mr Common-Sense himself, Peter Dunne is still undecided if he and UF will support the Third Reading of the Bill. Nice try Peter, but as your vote will have no effect on the outcome, stop grandstanding!

A Challenge to John Key

My friend Andrew has sent the following e-mail to John Key - I’ll post the response when he forwards it, or when it appears on John Key's site - good challenge to JK though!

Hi John,

I marched in Wellington today. Good event despite Labours youthful attack drones!

I have a question for you. I understand that a National government would repeal the EFB. This is good.

Can you tell me if you would commit to pardon and strike from the record any convictions brought under the EFB ?

The assumption here is that such a pardon would only be applied to offences in respect of the newly introduced, draconian offences.

Keen to hear from you.
Andrew on 2007-11-21 18:59

It's a really good question that Andrew poses. Many of us are seriously worried about the limitations on our ability to express our opinions during election year. Some of us will choose to flout the law; others may fall foul of the law inadvertently; whichever, unless we are naive enough to believe Annette King when she talks about "the law of common-sense", there may be consequences in the Courts. It would be reassuring to know whether National would be prepared not only to expunge the law, but also clean the slate of anyone who has fallen foul of it. And why not? After all, hasn't Labour already set a precedent in making legal the illegal?

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Clint Rickards Gone!

The NZ Herald website is reporting that Clint Rickards has resigned from the police, effective today. Here's the link:

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/section/1/story.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10477760

The Herald says:

"In a statement released by his lawyer John Haigh, Mr Rickards said both he and police believed that maintaining the confidence by the New Zealand public in the police was of paramount importance.

"As long as this high profile dispute is allowed to continue it will dominate the headlines and confidence will naturally come into question," the statement said.

"Mr Rickards denies any wrongdoing and considers that any employment disciplinary proceedings are totally without foundation.

"He does however recognise the untenable position of him continuing in his role with New Zealand Police and in the interests of all parties has decided to resign.""

Not before time! There was no way that Rickards could return to the police after his condemnation of the investigation into his conduct, and his support for his mates Schollum and Shipton, convicted and sentenced rapists. It still beggars belief though that he has hung on so long, on full pay. Now, can we have our Holden Commodore back please?

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Roy Morgan Strikes Again!

The boys over at No Minister have published the latest Roy Morgan opinion poll, and quelle surprise, it's bad news for the Government - very, very bad news. Here's the Roy Morgan report:

http://www.roymorgan.com/news/polls/2007/4247/

Bottom line - National up 3 to 48%, and holding a 14 point lead over Labour, down 6.5 to 34%. Just when Helen was trumpeting that the worm had turned, that the honeymoon was over, that the "hollow men" were being exposed as "all style-no substance", it's all gone sour for Labour.

However, a read of the commentary accompanying the poll result shows that this is REALLY bad news for Labour - here's what the Roy Morgan people said:

"Gary Morgan says:

“The recent plunge in support for the Labour Party follows the mishandling of the domestic terrorism case with the October 15 arrests of Maori activists in Ruatoki.

“Solicitor-General David Collins’ ruling on November 8 that the Government’s anti-terrorism law couldn’t be used to prosecute the activists because the law was ‘confusing’ and ‘incoherent’ reflects badly on the Government’s competence.

“The referral of the Terrorism Suppression Act back to the Law Commission for major re-working — effectively scrapping the current legislation, has brought into question Helen Clark’s ability to protect New Zealanders from the scourge of terrorism. The National Party has strengthened their vote to lead Labour by a massive 14%.”

This latest Morgan Poll on voting intention was conducted with a New Zealand-wide cross-section of 808 electors between October 29 — November 11, 2007. "

Now those dates take on added significance. The polling period ended on Sunday November 11th. And as we all know, the New Zealand Herald climbed into the government on Monday 12 November - a development that is not captured in this poll! Labour's "outing" by the Herald for their attack on democracy, John Boscawen's march in Auckland, and the reporting back of the EFB and second reading debate will all feature in the next Roy Morgan poll. Oh yes, so will the release of the SSC report into the Madeleine Setchell affair, the revelation of cronyism in the Environment Ministry, and the survey that shows that 57% of Kiwis think that the government has too much control over their lives!! No Minister's by-line, "Roy Morgan Kneecaps Clark" pretty much says it all! To paraphrase the old song - "How low can they go?"

Monday, November 19, 2007

It's Back - and Worse Than Ever

The EFB has been reported back by the Justice and Electoral Select Committee, and Labour has managed to make it even more draconian - read the report here:

http://www.parliament.nz/NR/rdonlyres/B3855C0D-338F-42C8-8E8F-C82715337CA7/69335/DBSCH_SCR_3906_5586.pdf

Meanwhile David Farrar has been the first to post comment, and there's plenty of fur flying! See for yourself:

http://www.kiwiblog.co.nz/2007/11/18062.html#comments

More later, when I've had time to take it all in, but it looks like game on! Kill the Bill!!

More Criticism of the EFB II - the Fallout Continues

Despite the predictable criticism from the left that the NZ Herald has a right-wing bias (or "Tory rag" as Jill Pettis loudly and repeatedly interjected in the House last week, reminding Whanganui voters why they made a wise decision in rejecting her in 2005), condemnation of the Electoral Finance Bill continues.

John Roughan writes a weekly opinion piece, which is seldom right-leaning. However he joins the chorus of concerned media with his column at the weekend. Here's the link:

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/section/story.cfm?c_id=280&objectid=10476518&pnum=2

He quotes Helen Clark, the counters her rationale:

""The National Party benefits enormously from big money in New Zealand politics," she said on Monday in response to the Herald's front page editorial on Monday.

No doubt National does benefit more than others but it has not won an election for a while. Money is not magic; it is only as effective as the popular resonance of the message and the credibility of the messenger and it has an in-built limit. To spend too much, conspicuously or anonymously, is counter-productive.

Money, Labour forgets, is not the only political advantage. Left-leaning governments enjoy a much easier ride from interest groups in the state sector, authoritative academics and generally from the media."

And indeed, the Labour government has enjoyed, generally speaking, an armchair ride from the MSM throughout its term of government - until November 2007, where the worm has turned!

He also debunks the Brethren connection:

"But the last election was too close for her comfort and she blames seven rich, religious, moral conservatives. Three of her demons in each one.

She means to prevent it happening again. The Electoral Finance Bill is the Exclusive Brethren bill.

As usual when governments legislate with a vengeance, the cure threatens to be much worse than the disease."

The cure is worse than the disease - could there be any more accurate criticism of the EFB?

Sunday, November 18, 2007

And Not Before Time!

The Herald reports that Len Richards, of megaphone diplomacy fame (or infamy!) will be interviewed by Police this week. Here's the link:

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/section/1/story.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10476783

Why the delay? A full fortnight has elapsed since this incident, which occurred in full view of numerous police, and was recorded by both major TV channels. This reflects poorly on the Police, who not only watched as a crime was committed, but also allowed the perpetrator to walk through their line and return to the sanctuary of the Labour Party conference. With all the debate this week over the politicisation of the public service, it is hard to escape the conclusion that the Police have become politicised as well. And that is a very dangerous state of affairs!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

The Greens - A Party of Principle?

Readers of Kiwiblog will know krazykiwi, another opponent of the EFB. Krazykiwi recently wrote to the Greens, to express his concerns for their support of the EFB, and has given me permission to reproduce correspondence. Here is the reply he received from Metiria Turei, who seems to have become the Greens' spokeperson on electoral law reform.

"Thank you for sending your email to us about the Electoral Finance Bill. This is an issue of great importance to the community and directly affects the nature of our citizenship. The public interest in the bill and its effects is very welcome in a healthy democracy.

The Greens view on electoral finance reform is guided by three key principles. Transparency - that voters have a right to know who is funding political parties. A level playing field - elections should be a contest between different ideas and policies not a contest as to who has the most money.

And finally avoiding state dependency – political parties should be encouraged to maintain strong memberships and links to the community and not become entirely dependent on public support.
Because of the importance of preventing the influence of undue wealth, political parties currently have restrictions on the amount of money they can spend in an election. We believe that similar principles ought to apply to others who engage in electioneering. To constrain political party spending but not that of other groups fails to address the problem but we need to get the balance right.

To this end, we have campaigned strongly to alter the bill to include a ban on secret trusts and anonymous donations. The public should know who funds political parties and third parties.

We also agree that the bill includes a number of restrictions on third parties that are unnecessary to meet our objectives for fair electoral finance law. We are working in the select committee to make the changes to the bill that will ensure that the public right to actively engage in the electoral process is protected while guarding against undue financial influence. To this end we have, in the select committee, fought for:

* ensuring that issues advertising is not election advertising;
* protecting the donations that groups recieve for ther ordinary advocacy and community work from being included as donations for election expenses;
* lift the cap on third party spending from the bills current limit of $60,000;
* remove the requirement for a third party statutory declaration; and
* strengthen the enforcement provisions to highlight the seriousness of corrupt practices

We also believe that the public should be engaged better in the process and so have called for a Citizens Assembly to address these and other electoral funding issues.

Finally, we have chosen to constructively work with other parties across the political spectrum to get the best possible outcome in this bill as we do not believe that the current law properly protects against the abuses of financial influence.

We sincerely appreciate your concerns about this bill and we expect that they will be addressed when the bill is reported back to Parliament in the next few days.

Noho ora mai, Na,

Metiria Turei MP
"



Now krazykiwi is no-one's fool. He is a successful businessman, and knows a fob-off when he sees one! So he e-mailed a response to Metiria Turei, which he has also authorised me to reproduce - so here goes:

"Metiria,

Thanks for this email. I have to say that the Greens' stated ideals and your actual actions are polls apart .....

Transparency - this was originally to be included but was then removed by your coalition partner - Labour. The mechanisms for ensuring transparency should surely be transparent... not retro-fitted without proper public consultation. Greens' score 3/10

Level Playing Field - This is not achieved by making all/any interested citizen register before opening their mouth. Every NZer should be able to spend their hard earned income campaigning for whoever or whatever they choose. This is a basic human right. What is unethical is cash-poor but power-rich entities using their legislative muscle to suppress other voices. Greens' score 1/10

Avoiding State Dependency - What nonsense is this? The Appropriation (Continuation of Interim Meaning of Funding for Parliamentary Purposes) Bill - which your party is supporting - provides de-facto state funding for political parties... relieving them of the need to seek financial support from their constituencies. How can you support this bill while decrying state dependency? Greens' score 0/10.

The bottom line is that the Greens are supporting ethically bankrupt legislation which is designed to surpress democratics voices and load the electoral dice in favour of the current government.

All this is a disgrace... and my view of the Greens has been permanently damaged by your party's duplicity.

Regards,
Andrew
"


Excellent response krazykiwi - and so say all of us! The Greens' reputation, and the memory of Rod Donald have been forever tarnished by their complicity with Labour to circumvent democracy.

Telling it like it is

I really enjoy Garth George's weekly opinion piece in the NZ Herald. He comes across as a grumpy old bugger, but he's one of the "old school" of journalists, and he is usually right on the money with his observations. And today is no exception - here's the link:

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/section/story.cfm?c_id=280&objectid=10476072&pnum=0

I met George earlier this year when he spoke at a leadership programme I was attending. There was a wide divergence in responses to what he had to say, but all present were in agreement that he spoke from the heart, and called things as he saw them. He's come from the school of hard knocks, as he sometimes refers to in his columns, but one thing is for sure - he has an excellent "bullshit detector" which has obviously been working overtime as he prepared this week's column. He starts:

"If ever there were a reason to turf this Government out, it is the arrogance and hypocrisy of the Dear Leader in refusing point blank to scrap the despicable Electoral Finance Bill.

Here is a woman who has been blathering on about human rights ever since she became a public face, who rails against the military takeover in Fiji and demands a return to democracy there, and who gallivants round the world attending wartime anniversaries.

The irony seems to escape her that this bill, which has been written for no other reason than to give Labour an advantage during next year's election campaign, is the most serious attack on human rights in this country that has ever been mounted.

It is an assault on democracy every bit as dangerous as the antics of Frank Bainimarama, for it is the sort of legislation that prospective dictators force through to shut down public dissent.

And it is an insult to the thousands of New Zealanders who died in two world wars to turn back those who would have enslaved us and preserve our democracy and our human rights."

Goodness - another journo has broken ranks and used "Dear Leader" - he must read the blogs! But then he turns his attention to Labour's support parties - and lets it all hang out:

"I have contempt, too, for the Labour running dogs who have indicated they will support this Government bill - the MPs of United Future, NZ First and the Greens.

I suppose it is expected of that master of self-interested compromise, Winston Peters, who is about to visit North Korea as our non-Cabinet Minister of Foreign Affairs.

If Kim Jong-il hears about the Electoral Finance Bill, he'll probably invite Winston to dinner.

Peter Dunne has never been anything but Labour lite and can be trusted only to lick the Government's boots.

But I must say I'm a bit surprised at the Greens. I would have thought blokes like Keith Locke and Nandor Tanczos, those champions of the underdog, would have cavilled at this piece of legislation. But no. Politics overrides principle yet again."

He then reminds readers that the Exclusive Brethren businessmen were perfectly entitled to carry out their campaign in 2005, a fact ignored by Labour, before applying the blowtorch to Helen Clark again - get this:

"So the Dear Leader and her minions are determined that next time advertising condemning or criticising the Government will be heavily restricted, while the Government will be able to spend what it likes promoting its own policies at no cost to the party.

If ever there was a misuse of political power, this is it. As this newspaper said in only its second front-page editorial in five years, "democracy is not a device to keep Labour in power".

But it is typically socialist and the longer this Government remains, the more its members see themselves as there to rule rather than simply to govern, persuaded that only they know what is best for the country.

But it is in reality only what is best for the rulers that matters; the exercise of power, through legislation and a powerful bureaucracy, becomes an addiction, and the thought of having to go without it becomes intolerable.

And, as with all addictions, the longer it is practised the worse it gets. Thus, the dumping of Labour a year from now would really be a humane act. Its members need saving from themselves."

"Its members need saving from themselves" - I love that line - must file it away for future reference!!And he is dead right when he talks about addictions - if you know his life story, you'll understand where he is coming from. George concludes with a warning to Labour:

"Labour strategists seem to think that anger over this bill, if it becomes law in the next few weeks, will be forgotten come next year.

Not so. I, for one, certainly won't forget. But who knows?

Perhaps by then this column will be banned by law, too."

Thank you for this contribution Garth. It is, if nothing else, a reminder to all of us who oppose the EFB to keep up our opposition, even after the Bill has passed into law, as it inevitably will, given the government's deals with its support parties. We must ensure that as many people as possible know that Labour, the Greens and New Zealand First (I'm still not sure about United Future) are punished for allowing this insidious piece of legislation to proceed, despite overwhelming opposition and condemnation.

And Garth, keep telling it like it is - even if it is illegal! I suspect that no amount of legislation will stop your pen - which is exactly how it should be!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

More Fallout from the Setchell Affair

The Herald has just posted a story on the release of the State Services Commissioner's report into the Madeleine Setchell sacking. Here's the link:

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/section/1/story.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10475964&pnum=0

Predictably, the report finds that Environment Ministry CEO, Hugh Logan made "management errors" in his handling of the affair, and Dr Prebble has imposed a "monetary consequence" of reportedly around 15% of his annual salary. I say that's not good enough, and Logan should resign.

Even more noteworthy though is Dr Prebble's revelation that his OWN conduct was "sub-standard", and he has imposed a penalty of 2.5% of his $400K pa salary! Hello!!!

Alongside the release of Dr Prebble's report is that of former Commissioner Don Hunn. The Herald reports that "Dr Hunn's report noted differing accounts of how events unfolded and many lapses of memory by some of the significant players." and that there were "significant errors" in the handling of the case.

The Herald goes on:

"Dr Hunn said while he was not asked to make any judgment on the actions of any of those involved except the State Services Commission (SSC), he found the ministry had made "significant errors" in hiring Ms Setchell, and sacking her.

It was clear from the evidence that Mr Logan had decided he had no option but to sack her, once he had heard of the minister's office's concerns about her appointment, Dr Hunn said.

The SSC had failed to show "sufficient leadership" to avoid the outcome that Mr Logan had decided upon from the outset, the report said."

You "failed to show sufficient leadership" Dr Prebble, yet you penalise yourself a mere sixth (in perecentage terms) of what you penalise Hugh Logan. That is a disgrace! But wait, there's more!! The Herald continues:

"When the matter became public several months ago, Mr Logan came under fire for failing to pass on to deputy state services commissioner Iain Rennie that Mr Benson-Pope had told him he could not be as free and frank if Ms Setchell was the ministry's communications manager.
That meant an initial report Mr Rennie prepared for the then state services minister Annette King was incomplete.


Before Mr Benson-Pope quit, SSC commissioner Mark Prebble wrote an article in which he stated that the minister had not been involved in the process behind her sacking.

It was also later revealed Dr Prebble was also told by the former minister he did not want Ms Setchell in his office, a fact which Dr Prebble said he did not recall when writing the article."

An earlier report in the Herald says that Dr Prebble has invited Ministers to sack him if they have concerns. I say to those Ministers - please accept Dr Prebble's invitation. If our most senior public servant cannot remember something as significant as Benson-Pope told him, that he "did not want Ms Setchell in his office" he is not fit to hold office.

I hope that when Question Time ends this afternoon, Margaret Wilson intones..."I have received a letter from.." and Parliament can urgently debate this matter.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Gotcha!

The Herald has just posted an article on their website confirming that the poll question accompanying their anti-EFB stories yesterday was hijacked by a hacker. Here's the link:

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/section/1/story.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10475793

This is, of course, not new territory for the Herald, and indeed, I was able to post about a similar incident in August of this year:

http://keepingstock.blogspot.com/2007/08/dodgy-polls.html

Whilst this is an embarrassment for the Herald, who will be beefing up their systems in the wake of the attack, it is a more telling indictment on those on the left of the political spectrum who seek to subvert democracy by tainting legitimate polls in the public domain. Strangely, the left seem to be the ones who cry "Foul!" with the loudest voices when talking about the involvement of Christian businessmen campaigning against Labour and the Greens at the 2005 election. The words "glasshouses" and "stones" come to mind!

Whodunnit? II - The Sequel

The Herald reports this morning that "Police have started an investigation into whether TV3 is in possession of leaked documents relating to last month's police raids." Here's the link:

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/section/1/story.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10475720

So where does this leave us? Are the Police looking to "out" one of their own? Do the Police believe that it was some external party who leaked the information to Campbell Live? Where will the trail lead?

While on the subject, Andrew Little of EPMU fame was quoted on the radio news as describing the police's request for 3News to reveal their source as a "chilling" development for a media organisation, whose sources have always been regarded as strictly confidential. Chilling? Wasn't that the same word used by the Human Rights Commission to describe the Electoral Finance Bill? I know that Labour is keen to recruit Little - is he already having to worry about which hat he is wearing?

Monday, November 12, 2007

Talk to Helen Clark

A quick heads-up. Helen Clark will be the guest of Justin du Fresne on Newstalk ZB in Wellington tomorrow morning, just after the 9am news. You can listen on 1035AM, or on the web @ http://www.newstalkzb.co.nz/ and select Wellington. If you want to ask the PM a question, the number to call is 04-472-1035.

I talked to Justin this morning, and he is very well informed about the EFB, and I don't think he'll give the PM an armchair ride. We had a good chat about the government's plans to circumvent the High Court review of the Crown Law opinion, and later in the morning, he read John Key's statement out in full, on-air.

National Supports the EFB - Yeah, Right

Over the last few weeks, the leftists who seek out right-leaning blogs with the intention of disrupting debate have perpetuated the myth that National actually SUPPORTS the Electoral Finance Bill. So it is with pleasure that I reproduce, in full and unedited, the statement issued by John Key this morning:

National will dump draconian law

Monday, 12 November 2007, 11:03 am
Press Release: New Zealand National Party Leader John Key MP


National Party Leader John Key says a National Government will scrap the draconian electoral finance legislation.

“Today, a major newspaper devoted its entire front page to the Electoral Finance Bill and the danger it poses to our democracy and freedom of speech.

“National has been campaigning for months against this travesty of a bill, because we recognise the very real threat it poses to New Zealanders’ rights to freely express their political opinion.

“New Zealanders should be deeply worried when a government is starting to put its own preservation ahead of long-observed bipartisanship on electoral law.

“In a desperate bid to retain power, Labour is planning to regulate political debate for an outrageous one year in every three - by extending the election period to the very first day of election year.

“Third parties – in other words everybody who isn’t a political party – will be subject to tough regulation of how much they can spend and when. They will even have to make returns to a government agency to participate in democracy.

“Meanwhile, it seems that government department advertising that pushes Labour Party policies, like KiwiSaver and Working for Families, will not be restricted at all.

Mr Key says Labour is also preparing this week to ram through an appropriation bill that will legitimise election advertising like Labour’s infamous pledge card, and mean incumbent electorate MPs will be able to spend four times more money than unelected challengers in election year.

“In other words, there will be two standards of free speech – one for politicians and one for everybody else.

“The Electoral Finance Bill and the appropriation legislation are all about saving Labour by screwing the scrum in its favour.

“In its select committee submission, the Human Rights Commission called the Electoral Finance Bill a ‘dramatic assault’ on fundamental human rights.

“The Law Society said the bill was complex and vague, and made it dangerous for anyone to participate in elections for fear of unknowingly breaking the law.

“But Labour doesn’t care about these submissions - or any of the others pointing out the obvious dangers to our democracy.

“The select committee considering the bill is meeting again today, and the question is whether the Labour and smaller party MPs are listening to the concerns.

“The smaller parties who are supporting this draconian bill should hang their heads in shame, and I call on them to reconsider their support.

“In a couple of weeks’ time the legislation may be law and it will be too late.

“Labour will have written self-serving rules governing political debate in election year.

“That is a disgrace.”


Update - 1.15pm

The Herald is now carrying quotes from John Key's statement, in a story alongside Helen Clark's defence of the EFB. It's good to see the contrasting opinions, literally, in black and white!

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/section/1/story.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10475442



Congratulations to the Herald

Well done to the New Zealand Herald for its unprecedented full front-page editorial today condemning the Electoral Finance Bill, and its equally insidious companion, the Appropriation (Continuation of Interim Meaning of Funding for Parliamentary Purposes) Bill. Here's the link:

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/section/466/story.cfm?c_id=466&objectid=10475416

Combine this with an equally scathing editorial in Friday's Dominion-Post, and finally, the MSM has not only got the message, but is passing the message on. And that is a development that is long overdue!

I'll add to this post throughout the day, but meanwhile, read it and rejoice!

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Whodunnit?

I thought the TV news would have been all over this story tonight - I didn't see One News but 3News was silent.

http://www.stuff.co.nz/4267865a10.html

The lead story on 3News last night was the "terrorism" arrests, with an exclusive promised on Campbell Live revealing details of the police evidence that the Solicitor-General found insufficient to justify charges under the TSA. Campbell Live came, and the only exclusive was the non-story! After going to air at 6pm, 3News had been threatened by Crown lawyers with prosecution if they revealed the information which had been leaked to them.

The question that has to be asked now is who leaked this highly sensitive material to Campbell Live? It doesn't seem to have been anyone on the defence side, as defence lawyers are claiming that they haven't even been told what evidence the police has. I guess that leaves two possibilities, and neither of them make good reading. It would appear that the leak has either come from within the Solicitor-General's office, or from the police themselves. That poses the obvious question - why would senior police (and you'd have to be stretching your imagination to think that anyone other than police at the highest levels have had possession of this information) leak sensitive and potentially prejudicial information to the news media? Was this a butt-covering exercise? Are the police so disappointed that the Solicitor-General found against them that they took such a step? Was some misguided officer running interference for Howard Broad? Do the police want the "Tuhoe 17" tried in the Court of Public Opinion? Whatever, it's not a good look, and I'm sure Howard Broad will want to get to the bottom of it.

There's one other possibility - "sources in Wellington" - the media code for sources close, very close to the Prime Minister's Department. But surely that wouldn't happen...........would it?

Friday, November 9, 2007

Dom-Post Slams the Government

The editor of the Dominion-Post, bless his heart, has had a real go at Labour today over the EFB and its companion, the Appropriation (Continuation of Interim Meaning of Funding for Parliamentary Purposes) Bill. Given the report in the NBR yesterday that the government will seek to progress the EFB under urgency next week, this is welcome publicity.

Here's the link: http://www.stuff.co.nz/dominionpost/4266456a6483.html

Headed "Outrageous bills to fund election", this piece pulls no punches. It begins:

"Yesterday a bill setting out how political parties can spend taxpayers' money during next year's election campaign was given its first airing in Parliament, The Dominion Post writes.

The Appropriation (Continuation of Interim Meaning of Funding for Parliamentary Purposes) Bill extends till June 2009 temporary legislation put in place last year to retrospectively validate parties' election spending since mid-1989.

Treasury advised that the earlier legislation was necessary after electoral and public-spending watchdogs deemed most political parties had illegally misspent public money on electioneering during the 2005 campaign. Several, especially Labour, disagreed.

The new bill will, therefore, again allow Labour, if it wants to, to splurge $440,000-plus on a pledge-card - spending the auditor-general found last year to have been unlawful."

So far, so good. The writer goes on:

"The bill now before the House will become law because the Government has amassed enough votes for it to do so.

But the public will have no formal opportunity to comment. The bill is not being sent to a select committee, meaning voters will have no forum in which to tell MPs they would rather the money went on hip replacements and new classrooms than on airbrushed photos of Prime Minister Helen Clark.

The legislation is as outrageous as the spending that provoked it. It is every bit as outrageous as its companion measure, the Electoral Finance Bill, also before the House."

The editor of one of New Zealand's most significant daily newspapers refers to airbrushed photos of the PM? Things are definitely looking up! But wait, as they say on the infomercials, there's more:

"Though Miss Clark intimated recently that the Electoral Finance Bill would be redrafted, its provisions on third-party funding seem likely to remain. That means that trade unions, the Exclusive Brethren and charities seeking, for example, higher payments to the disabled will find their freedom of speech stifled from January 1 till the morning after election day.

It is incredible that any social democrat party would countenance such a move but when a party faces possible defeat, it can elevate ambition over ethics. Miss Clark seems to be calculating that the public interest in election spending is over - that, while voters got seriously angry in 2006, this latest row will be an overnight wonder.

National needs to ensure she is wrong."

"When a party faces possible defeat, it can elevate ambition over ethics" - whilst that, in the case of the Labour government of Helen Clark, would be the understatement of the decade (well, the eight years Labour has been in power, at least!) - once again, it is reassuring to see a national newspaper come out in print and make such a damning statement. The Dom-Post is alleging that Labour is riding roughshod over public opinion - that in itself is something of a watershed moment!

The final sentence lays down a challenge to National - prove Helen Clark wrong. Much has been said in the blogosphere of late about National's comparative silence over the EFB. I sent an e-mail to John Key, Bill English and Gerry Brownlee today, with copies to my local MP's, Simon Power and Chester Borrows. It read:

"Kia ora John

The NBR reports that the EFB will be back before the House next week, and that the government will seek to push the Bill through the remaining stages under urgency.

I am gravely concerned at this development, and believe that most "informed" New Zealanders, i.e. those who have taken the time to understand what the EFB seeks to do will be likewise concerned. I am also troubled by the comparative silence coming from National on this issue in recent weeks, although I commend you on your excellent speech to the National Press Club.. I would be greatly reassured by your comments that National remains vehemently opposed to the EFB, in the form in which it went to the Select Committee. I believe that the EFB is the government's Achilles heel, and attacking the government's credibility over its attempts to stifle free speech through this insidious legislation represents a major opportunity for National to win the next election.

I look forward to your comments and reassurance."

I had a reply from Bill English's office this afternoon, which read:

"We are opposed to the government's legislation because it's anti democratic and we will repeal it if we are the government. The media are now getting interested in it - expect more coverage over the next few weeks as the legislation comes back to the House.
Regards
Bill English
"

I certainly hope that the National team has prepared plenty of ammunition to fire at Labour and its support parties, the Greens and NZ First (I'll withhold judgement on Peter Dunne for now - he may yet do the decent thing), because this Bill needs to be opposed in the strongest possible terms. I commend John Boscawen for his efforts, also the Free Speech Coalition guys for keeping the EFB under the spotlight. Next week could be the most significant in New Zealand politics for a long while, and if the government is able to ram its agenda through, we will all suffer the repercussions.

Not much else to close with then but - KILL THE BILL!!


Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Thanks Helen and Winston!

The World Netball Championship is of to a great start! The Herald and RNZ are reporting that a Fijian player has been refused a visa to enter New Zealand because her husband is in the Fijian military. Here's the link:

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/section/1/story.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10474503

Now I know that Helen and Winston have a major dislike of Frank Bainimarama. However, you'd think that Netball in Fiji has suffered enough through losing the chance to host the World Championships. Sure, a precedent was set with the refusal of a visa to the Fijian soccer player last month, but this is an officially sanctioned World Championship, and I would have thought that the government might be gracious enough to allow the Fijians to come here with a full squad. There was no such treatment of the Fijian Sevens team for the Wellington tournament in February, despite the long-standing links between rugby and the Fijian military. The government simply snubbed the presence of the Fijians in the tournament, and vetoed the traditional pre-tournament parade from starting in the grounds of Parliament - but did not interfere with the team in any way.

This is petty politicking and grandstanding of the worst kind, and to turn around the old cliche, sport will be the loser on the day!

Update: 11.45am:

RadioSport and the Herald are now reporting that TWO Fijian players have withdrawn from the Fiji team due to family military connections.

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/section/1/story.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10474503

Saturday, November 3, 2007

It IS OK!

Very interesting footage leading 3News tonight, and I suspect that there will be some in the Labour hierachy who are very upset that a plonker by the name of Len Richards stole Dear Leader's thunder. Here 'tis:

http://www.tv3.co.nz/ViolenceandprotestsmarkLabourPartyconference/tabid/309/articleID/38397/Default.aspx#video

Two issues stand out here - firstly the inaction of the Police who witnessed a potentially serious assault with a weapon, then arrested those who complained about it. Also the bullshitting of Len Richards, firstly denying that he'd hit anyone, then changing his tune to say it wasn't deliberate and that he was "against violence" once told that 3News had footage of his actions.

Update: Have just seen the One News footage which shows, from a different angle, Richards hitting the protesters, then pushing through the police line to return to the conference. At least six police officers witnessed the assault, and did absolutely nothing. My respect for and confidence in the police is, sadly, diminishing.

More serious though is the hypocricy of the Government. At a time when millions of dollars of taxpayers' funds are being spent on an ad campaign to tell us "It's not OK", we have:

* the allegations of assault against David Benson-Pope (against students in his care - prima-facie case established but "not in the public interest" to prosecute),

*Trevor Mallard's assault on Tau Henare (and No Minister has a great rebuttal of Clarks "Henare started it" defence - http://nominister.blogspot.com/2007/11/right-wing-blogger-exposes-shady-pm.html)

*and now Len Richards' "hit them peacefully with a megaphone" blunder.

The TV ads are right - It's not OK - ever. However, it obviously IS OK if you are a member of the Labour Party.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Keeping Stock is back in business!

It's been a hectic last couple of weeks, so blogging has taken a back seat. Maybe it's time to get a laptop so I can blog while away!

Mrs Inventory and I spent a great week in the South Island. Firstly, a family celebration in Christchurch, then a few nights in Queenstown. We drove down last Tuesday - the day of the "big blow" in the south, and fortunately missed the worst of the winds. It was a spectacular trip down through the McKenzie Country, the Lindis Pass then to Wanaka and finally over the Crown Range into Queenstown. I hadn't been to Queenstown for over 25 years, and much has changed! Te scenery down that way is simply stunning - still a lot of snow of the Remarkables, Coronet Peak and all the surrounding ranges - it really is a place of natural beauty. We did a round-trip to get home - over to Cromwell, Alexandra, then following the "Pig Route" to Palmerston and up the coast back to Christchurch. All in all a great break away from the stresses of work, and maybe, just maybe, the opportunity to expand our service into the Southern Lakes area in the New Year!

Now it's just the simple matter of catching up with all the work that didn't get done last week .... oh well, it was good while it lasted!