The Jackal: June 2012

29 Jun 2012

Something to do in Auckland

Crafar farms valuation nightmare

Today, the NZ Herald reported:

Chinese company Shanghai Pengxin has been accused of making a "Claytons" offer to return historical pa sites to a King Country iwi after knocking back its offer to buy the farms where the sites are located.

Interests associated with King Country iwi Ngati Rereahu and central North Island iwi Tuwharetoa said yesterday that Shanghai Pengxin was seeking the "ridiculous" sum of $66.5 million for three properties out of the 16 former Crafar farms the Chinese company bought this year for a total believed to be just over $200 million.

The iwi interests believe the three farms, which include areas of cultural significance, are worth about $45 million.

You would think this gives even more grounds for a high court appeal against National's decision to sell the sixteen Crafar farms to Milk New Zealand Holding Limited aka Shanghai Pengxin Group.

There is of course a loss of over $20 million of Fonterra milk payouts per year to the Central North Island economy to consider, and the difference between the offer and what the three farms are actually worth appears to be significant.

The Shanghai Pengxin application was granted because it was meant to be beneficial to New Zealand. This is clearly not the case, but not because the price is inconsistent with what the Hong Kong incorporated company is believed to have purchased all the farms for (approximately $210 million) on a purely land area calculation.

The sixteen dairy farms consist of an area the size of Hamilton, comprising of around 7892 Hectares. The two Bennydale farms are 1687 Hectares and the Taharua Road, Rangitaiki farm on the Napier Taupo Highway is 1751 hectares. So that's 3438 Hectares or 43.5% of the total land area Shanghai Pengxin purchased for $210 million.

You wouldn't expect variables such as non-productive land and additional things like facilities and cattle to be significantly different between the sixteen farms, so the actual price equivalent to what Shanghai Pengxin is believed to have paid for the three farms in question is $91.35 million, well above the amount offered.

This all makes a mockery of what Pita Sharples claimed when he said two of those farms could be gifted back by Shanghai Pengxin... What a plonker! No business is going to buy farms in New Zealand, maybe even using Chinese government money, just to give them back to Maori. FFS! What planet is this guy living on?

It's also inconsistent for Landcorp to use the higher of two valuations, and then add 15% as a premium to that valuation. This calculation is meant to be for uncontested land, rather than contested and on-market sales, which was apparently what the Crafar Farms deal was meant to be.

Why they didn't initially split the farms up into more affordable lots is beyond me.

28 Jun 2012

Steve Wozniak backs Dotcom

Yesterday, the Business Insider reported:

Wozniak said plenty of people used Megaupload for legitimate purposes before federal authorities shut it down in January and filed criminal charges against seven of its officers, including Dotcom. In a dramatic raid the same month, New Zealand police swooped down in helicopters onto the grounds of Dotcom's mansion and cut their way into a safe room where they found him hiding. He was jailed for a month before a judge decided he could be monitored from his home.

Wozniak likened the Megaupload site to a highway and those who shared pirated movies and songs to speeding motorists.

"You don't just shut down the whole street because somebody is speeding," he said.

U.S. authorities allege in their indictment that Dotcom and Megaupload deliberately thwarted attempts to remove pirated material from the site by removing individual links but not the pirated content. Prosecutors claim the "mega conspiracy" netted Dotcom and others $175 million in illicit advertising revenue and download fees.

In an email interview, Dotcom said the charges are bogus.

"The more people learn about this case the more they realize that this type of copyright disagreement between Hollywood and new cloud storage technology is a political debate, not something that belongs in the criminal court and certainly not something to justify breaking down the door to my house," he said.

I like Steve Wozniak's analogy and it will be interesting to see how the federal authorities handle the various counterclaims from people who were using MegaUpload for legitimate purposes.

ExxonMobil is a blight on humanity

Yesterday, gCaptain reported:

On Wednesday Exxon Chief Executive Rex Tillerson broke from the previous company line that it wasn’t being hurt by natural gas prices, admitting that the Irving, Texas-based firm is among those hurting from the price slump.
“We are all losing our shirts today.” Mr. Tillerson said in a talk before the Council on Foreign Relations in New York City. “We’re making no money. It’s all in the red.”
His comments mark a departure from remarks made earlier this year on how lower natural gas prices hadn’t yet hurt the company because of its operational efficiency and low production costs.

Rex Tillerson is obviously off the planet. ExxonMobil posted first-quarter earnings this year of $9.45 billion with cash reserves of $19.1 billion, so they're hardly not making money. In fact ExxonMobil has led Fortune 500’s annual ranking of the nations’ most profitable firms in the last nine out of ten years.

Much of this profit is because (like most oil and gas companies) ExxonMobil avoids paying taxes and receives large subsidies from the government. They paid an average 17.6 percent in federal tax, which is nearly half the 35 percent normal tax rate in the US and less than the average federal tax rate of 20.4%, and that's if they pay tax at all.

According to the Centre for American Progress:

The company paid no taxes at all to the U.S. federal government in 2009 on its domestic profits of nearly $2.6 billion. It appears that they avoided the tax man that year by legally funneling their profits through wholly owned subsidiaries in countries like the Cayman Islands, and reinvesting their earnings overseas.

Nothing like a bit of tax avoidance to go along with profiteering from the earths destruction.

ExxonMobil oil disaster in Yellowstone River, Montana - July 2011.

27 Jun 2012

No environmental protection under National

Today, the NZ Herald reported:

The Government will allow mining exploration in marine mammal sanctuaries that protect rare dolphins, whales and seals.

Conservation Minister Kate Wilkinson defended a decision for seismic surveying and mining exploration to go ahead in marine sanctuaries, saying surveying could be restricted to minimise harm to marine mammals.

Yesterday Prime Minister John Key ruled out mining in World Heritage Sites.

Green MP Gareth Hughes said it made a sham of so-called marine mammal sanctuaries after oil companies were granted 10 permits in four of the protected areas.

"It's great that you won't be going ahead with mining in World Heritage sites but what about the marine mammal sanctuaries," he said.

There were six existing sanctuaries around New Zealand's coastline meant to provide a permanent refuge for marine mammals in fishing waters.

If National weren't planning to exploit those areas for minerals, why are they bothering to explore them then? In fact New Zealand Petroleum and Minerals states that the high resolution survey of the West Coast region from Haast to Karamea:

Will be of interest to minerals explorers, who would need to interpret it to determine if there are areas of potential mineralisation.

...Which completely contradicts what John Key has said.

Surveying is not cheap either and the cost is being paid for by the taxpayer, who should be pissed off that the government is wasting our money to promote environmental destruction of Marine Sanctuaries and World Heritage Sites.

People should also be pissed off that National is undertaking surveying that has been scientifically proven (PDF) to cause marine mammals harm, and in protected areas no less. Doesn't the right-wing know what the word sanctuary means?

26 Jun 2012

Guy Hallwright - Asshole of the Week

Today, Stuff reported:

Prominent investment banker Guy Hallwright is on trial before a jury at Auckland District Court charged with causing grievous bodily harm to Song-jin Kim in September 2010. He has pleaded not guilty.

Hallwright's daughter Isabel Hallwright, 18, was today called as a Crown witness and told the court she did not realise her father had hit Kim, 58.

"My father drove forward and after what seemed a pretty long time there was a small bump while we were driving," she said.

She told the court that at the time she didn't believe they had hit Kim.

But Crown prosecutor Ross Burns put to her the police statement she made at the time, in which she said she knew they had hit Kim.

"Dad kept driving away... I yelled at him to stop because the guy was obviously hurt," her statement said.

She broke down in court and proceedings were adjourned.

Yesterday Kim, who suffered broken legs and a shattered ankle, told the court that after an alleged road rage incident Guy Hallwright had come to his car and banged the door.

"I started to swear at him in Korean, I opened the car door to get out," Kim said.

He said he moved back to Hallwright's car but began to fall, demonstrating to the court how he splayed out with his hands across the bonnet of Hallwright's car.

"At that time it wasn't moving, but as I tried to get up, holding something, tried to stand up, and then he just drove off."

Hallwright, represented by Paul Davison QC, fought a long battle for name suppression, going unsuccessfully to the High Court.

So Guy Hallwright hasn't been found guilty yet of reckless disregard for the safety of another, causing grievous bodily harm... but there's no doubt that he has acted like an asshole by not stopping at the scene of an accident, which it is likely he caused. I wonder if he skedaddled because he was drunk?

Paul Holmes delusional

Today, the NZ Herald reported:

Veteran broadcaster Paul Holmes returned to Hawkes Bay Hospital after complications left him gasping for breath.

Holmes told the Herald yesterday from his hospital bed that he had suffered from extreme breathlessness and delusions after his open-heart surgery in Auckland last week.

Paul Holmes suffering from delusions... nothing new there then.

The truth about job creation

Yesterday, Voxy news reported:

"It's completely unclear to us where John Key's jobs are going to come from."

The government itself has been a major destroyer of jobs over the last 4 years, such as those lost at KiwiRail's Hillside workshops in Dunedin because of an unwillingness to use government procurement to protect local jobs, Robert Reid said.

National has also reduced the number of Full-Time Equivalent Public Service workers, with a resulting lack of service delivery being reported. They've also failed to reduce the amount of investment into non-productive sectors, which has a direct negative effect on the economy and job creation.

But the main thing that National has achieved is to increase the amount of people permanently leaving New Zealand to live and work overseas. It's worth noting that if National hadn't increased the mass exodus, there would be even more people looking for work here in Aotearoa.

I guess that might be Keys solution... to export some of the current 78,000 job seekers overseas. The problem is that National has failed to create enough jobs, which has a lot to do with the type of industries they're promoting.

25 Jun 2012

No mandate for asset sales

On Saturday, the NZ Herald reported:

Business sometimes prefers an asset sale to future profits because the money has more value to it now or because it wants a different balance of investments. John Key has favoured this explanation. He has gone as far as to promise that all proceeds of the power company floats will be invested in items of social value such as hospitals and schools. The Budget last month set up an account for that purpose.

At first National claimed that the proceeds would go towards paying of government debt, which has increased dramatically under National. They've also claimed that the money will go towards the Future Investment Fund, which will provide farmers with $400 million worth of free irrigation... And now they're claiming that the money will be used to build new schools.

As any fool knows, you can't spend money twice or thrice as the case may be.

But what is really stupid is that according to Revenue Minister Peter Dunne who holds the single vote that will likely pass the Mixed Ownership Model Bill, a clampdown on tax avoidance and loopholes will bridge the gap left by the Government's planned sell-down of its energy company holdings, which just goes to show that there's no economic basis to sell. In fact it will make New Zealands financial situation worse.

Unfortunately much of the MSM including the NZ Herald has in the main been running biased pro-asset sales articles in favour of Nationals self-interested economic bungling.

The real question comes down to whether John Keys government has a mandate to sell our profitable assets, and this is where the NZ Herald displays some of the worst ideological claptrap I've read on the matter.

On Thursday, the print Editor Tim Murphy wrote:

In this case, of course, the country has had a referendum on the subject - at the last election. Opposition parties did even more than the Government to make the election a referendum on asset sales. Labour and the Greens put opposition to the sales uppermost in their campaigns. It was the main thrust of their advertising and they lost no opportunity to bring the issue into election debate.

Thanks to them, National now has an undeniable mandate. The Greens are wasting their time, as well as our money, trying to put the issue to a second test. Their effort can only undermine the system of citizens' initiative yet again by forcing another poll that the Government would safely ignore.

The last election was held on a number of issues, and only the referendum will determine whether the government has a mandate to progress further. I also disagree that MOM privatisation had anywhere near enough debate prior to the last election, being that most of the media was focussed on the teapot tapes.

The fact that National is uninterested in waiting for the referendum result and that many right-wing commentators have said the petition to get a referendum will just be ignored shows that National are not interested in whether they have a mandate or not. Their mentality amounts to; "You lost, and we will do what we want."

If National is not willing to wait a few months for the result of a referendum, they will damage their party. This is because a number of scientific polls have shown the vast majority of New Zealanders and even a majority of National supporters don't want asset sales.

Pity the rightwing doesn't listen to reason.

David Carter tortures chickens

Today, One News reported:

A group of 14 activists blocked off the road to the Mainland Poultry farm in Waikouaiti at around 3am, setting up scaffold towers and hanging protest banners.

Workers arriving at the plant were forced to turn away. ONE News reporter Megan Martin said staff have stopped turning up.

"The bosses must have got hold of them and said there's no point in coming to work today," she said.

"The farm can't operate, there's only one access road into Mainland Poultry and at the moment the protesters have completely blocked that off."

Police are at the scene, but have taken no action so far. Protesters have indicated they plan to stay for as long as possible and will have to be physically removed before they end their action.

Coalition to End Factory Farming spokesperson Carl Scott alleged the company is keeping its hens in cages in a cruel and inhumane way.

"An undercover investigation of Mainland Poultry's new colony cage system by Open Rescue in March revealed that hens are still suffering inside cages," he claimed.

A claim based in reality...

Hen from Mainland Poultry farm


Send an e-card to the Minister David Carter, asking him to oppose all cage systems for layer hens. Invite your friends and family to do the same in support.

Support SAFE’s campaign by getting involved, and making a donation

Above all, don’t fund factory farming, don’t buy cage eggs.

22 Jun 2012

Asset sales pollute the future

On Wednesday, Stuff reported:

GNS Science researchers have been able to use hydrogen isotopes to show how intensifying agriculture since World War 2 has increasingly put nitrates, sulphates, pesticides, chromium, and CFC refrigerant chemicals into underground reservoirs.


The research by scientists Uwe Morgenstern and Chris Daughney has been accepted for publication in the Journal of Hydrology.

"Groundwater resources are under threat by pollution from land use activities in the recharge area," their article said.

Worldwide concerns were growing about nutrients in groundwater from fertilisers and high intensity animal farming. Poisonous algal blooms and lake eutrophication were occurring when groundwater discharged into streams and lakes, while nitrates were exceeding recommended concentrations for drinking water supplies.

So the real question is what is the government going to do about it? National is in fact going to make the situation worse by further intensifying dairying through increased irrigation projects.

They will spend $400 million from the Future Investment Fund, which is a fund paid for by the proceeds from the partial sell-down of state assets.

Not only are we losing a large proportion of dividends from our power companies, we're going to get even more polluted water as well. This really is a lose lose situation for everybody except rich investors and farmers.

21 Jun 2012

Robert Redford - Hero of the Week

On Monday, Reader Supported News reported:

Every year, around the world, almost one trillion dollars of subsidies is handed out to help the fossil fuel industry. Who came up with the crazy idea that the fossil fuel industry deserves our hard-earned money, no less in economic times of such harsh human consequence? We fire teachers, police and firemen in drastic budget cuts and yet, the fossil fuel industry can laugh all the way to the bank on our dime? Something doesn't add up here.

We should not be subsidizing the destruction of our planet. Fossil fuels are literally cooking our planet, polluting our air and draining our wallets. Why should we continue to reward companies to do that?

As they go after more expensive and harder to access fossil fuels, it is like drilling a hole in our pocketbooks. We pay more at the pump. We pay in taxpayer subsidies to a highly profitable industry. And we pay in the rising costs of climate change in the form of floods, storms and droughts that hurt our homes and communities.

Our world leaders are gathering in Rio over the coming days for a historic meeting twenty years after the first Earth Summit. We are looking to our governments to show leadership and commit to real timetables and actions for fighting climate change, including ending fossil fuel subsidies. Sure, they've made commitments to stop these unnecessary payouts. But commitments need to become action to have any meaning. And despite strong words, we are not yet seeing action on the ground.

The rest of the article by Robert Redford is definitely worth reading, and makes him the Hero of the Week... Good man.

20 Jun 2012

National whinging about the referendum

It was amusing to see the weaselly Bill English whinging about the Green party yesterday, because they're gathering signatures for the Save our Assets petition. I guess he doesn't really like the idea of the people having a say in what the government does.

Today, the NZ Herald reported:

The National Party has attacked the Green Party over its use of taxpayer money to collect signatures for a referendum on asset sales - but has not ruled out doing the same for its campaigns.

It's a bit hypocritical to attack another party for something you might do yourself. It's also a bit rich to complain that the Greens have spent a few thousand dollars to find out if the government has a mandate to sell our assets, when National has already spent $120 million of our money on the middlemen for the sales process.

The Greens' use of public money to pay signature collectors was permitted by parliamentary rules, but it was believed to be an unprecedented use of the Leader's Office fund.

Finance Minister Bill English criticised the spending during parliamentary question time yesterday.

"It is a bit odd that Greens used to support citizens-initiated referendums, whereas now we are paying for Greens-initiated referendums."

It's not just a Greens-initiated referendum; it's been organized by a coalition of Labour, the Greens, Grey Power, the Council of Trade Unions, Greenpeace and the Union of Student Associations.

Like it or not, the Save our Assets petition is going to gain the required amount of signatures and National will look pretty totalitarian if they don't allow a referendum on the issue to be held, which they will assuredly lose. That's because the government doesn't have a mandate to sell our assets.

The fact is that the Greens wouldn't need to spend any money if National wasn't rushing through the Mixed Ownership privatisation legislation without any concern for due process. They didn't even allow people to speak to the finance and expenditure committee against the bill, which is grossly undemocratic.

The committee only received 9 submissions in favour of the governments proposed mixed ownership model, while a whopping 1421 were against the proposal to privatise Genesis Energy, Mighty River Power, Meridian and Solid Energy.

A number of the submissions sited a loss of dividends, foreign ownership, under-investment in crucial infrastructure, higher electricity prices, a lack of social responsibility from privately owned companies and therefore increasing inequality, a loss of transparency because the companies will no longer be subject to the Official Information or Ombudsman Act's and a majority of New Zealanders being against the asset sales.

There's no good argument to sell our assets, and most people know it.

19 Jun 2012

Not a Dunne deal

Today, Stuff reported:

United Future leader Peter Dunne is refusing to back a Greens' amendment to keep partially sold state-owned assets open to public scrutiny, saying the party is being "mischievous".

The Government's legislation to enable the sale of up to 49 per cent of Mighty River Power, Genesis, Solid Energy and Meridian returns to Parliament today for a clause by clause debate.

State-owned assets are open to public scrutiny through the Official Information Act and the Ombudsman Act but under the Mixed Ownership Model Bill the partially sold enterprises would no longer be subject to those laws for commercial reasons which also exclude public companies.

Greens co-leader Russel Norman will put up an amendment to keep the state-owned assets subject such scrutiny.

However Dunne, who holds one of two crucial support votes for the Government, said today he wouldn't be supporting the amendment.

"I'm not interested in supporting anything the Greens are putting forward on this."

Yesterday the bouffant was complaining on Twitter that people under 18 were signing the Keep our Assets referendum petition, when there is no legal age limit to say they cannot.

It would seem that Dunne is more pro-asset sales than many National MP's, all after misleading the country prior to the last election about his stance on selling our future. Thank god this is his last term in office.

Power price corruption

Today, David Farrar over at Kiwibog attempts to promote some propaganda by the Minister of State Owned Enterprises Tony Ryall, who paints a rosy picture that competition in the electricity market is delivering cheap power. This is of course complete rubbish!

Today, the NZ Herald reported:

The creation of the power website has enabled customers to see how much money they can save if they change power companies.

But energy campaigner Molly Melhuish said more people searching for better deals was not evidence that competition was delivering fair pricing. Rather, it was a sign of desperation as people struggled to ward off fuel poverty, with even the best rates too high for many.

"We must re-regulate so electricity is again an essential service.

"Until that's done, the current Rogernomics pricing is being increasingly savage." 
The 2008 Otago University study found that each year, about 1600 more people died during the winter months than in other seasons.

Researcher Dr Michael Baker said "excess winter mortality" was a huge and so far intractable problem for New Zealand.

"It's the scale of it," Dr Baker said.

"It's like four road tolls added together every winter."

The study used data from several years and found no decline in the rate for the past 15 to 20 years.

Power prices have continued to increase at around 8% per annum and thousands of New Zealander's cannot afford to heat their homes properly.

There is likely to have been no reduction in the excess winter mortality rate since National became government, because the average low and medium income has not matched inflation.

It should also be noted that some National MPs have extensive shareholdings in privately owned power companies, who have recently adjusted their pricing down again for the latest round of government funded promotion.

18 Jun 2012

New Zealand going backwards

Today, the NZ Herald reported:

Households will be paying higher power bills this winter as energy price increases made months ago bite in the cold weather.

The increases will be especially felt in the North Island.

Some Auckland households face increases of up to $64 for the three months of winter.

Figures from energy retailer Powershop show an average-sized home in Auckland will face a power bill of up to $805 for June to August.

Budgeting services say that although most power prices went up in April, families will feel their true effect over winter.

"People are struggling with their bills already - even another $30 is going to make it really hard for some people," said Federation of Family Budgeting Services chief executive Raewyn Fox.

"There have been constant increases for five years or more. And it's a period when wages haven't gone up to the same extent."

As an excuse, National MPs claim that power prices increased more under the last Labour government. This is correct if you take the entire nine years and compare it to the three and a bit years that National has been in power, which just goes to show how banal they are.

She said this year's power increases would be keenly felt as the cost of living had greatly outpaced wage increases.

"We've seen people who really haven't had salary increases for three or four years," Ms Fox said.

"And things were tight before prices went up over that period."

In fact since 2008, the average income for 16 to 20 year old males decreased by 1%. If we factor in CPI inflation of around 11%, and there's no doubt that New Zealand is going backwards fast, especially for the young... All thanks to an agist and defunct National government.

Average increase is approximately 8% per annum.

17 Jun 2012

Will they never learn?

Yesterday, the New York Times reported:

TOKYO — Brushing aside widespread public opposition, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda ordered the reactivation of two nuclear reactors at a plant in western Japan on Saturday, making it the nation’s first plant to go back on line since the crisis last year in Fukushima.

The decision to restart the Ohi nuclear plant ends the temporary freeze of Japan’s nuclear power industry since the triple meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi plant idled all 50 of Japan’s functional reactors. Despite the prime minister’s vows to strengthen the Ohi plant against the same sort of huge earthquake and tsunami that knocked out Fukushima, the Japanese public has remained deeply divided over the safety of nuclear power.

I sometimes wonder what will need to happen before the politicians realize that nuclear power is not safe full stop.

According to polls, some two-thirds of Japanese still express deep concern about the safety of nuclear plants after last year’s accident, which contaminated food with radiation and shattered the myth of Japan’s infallible nuclear technology. The day before Mr. Noda gave the order, his government was visited by an anti-nuclear group led by Nobel laureate Kenzaburo Oe, which presented the signatures of 7.5 million people calling for the abolition of nuclear power.

On Saturday, thousands of protesters turned out in the rain in Tokyo and elsewhere with placards criticizing the prime minister’s claim that the restarted plant was safe.

In fact the Fukushima disaster shows that all nuclear reactors are fallible, being that the reactors there are the same kind used worldwide. 

16 Jun 2012

Gareth Morgan - Asshole of the Week

Today, One News reported:

Entrepreneur and philanthropist Gareth Morgan has taken a swipe at the Green Party and some conservationists.

He says that the majority of New Zealanders see them as "lefties", "extremists" or "nutters," which in the long run is holding back their cause of protecting the environment.

Now hold on a sec, most New Zealander's care a lot about the environment and want to see it protected. There are even some right-wingers who actually believe nature is important, so I very much doubt that a majority of Kiwi's don't recognize the cause, let alone pour scorn on the policies of the Green party.

What other whacky ideas does this economist have?

"We still have a Green Party that refuses to go into coalition with National. What the hell is that about? Is this a party concerned with conservation? Or is it a far-left group using conservation as a Trojan horse for another agenda?"

Morgan has obviously forgotten recent history, being that the Green party were the ones who extended the olive branch to not rule out a coalition with National at the last election. This would of course require a very large proviso, which National is not willing to make.

It's therefore National ruling out a coalition with the Greens, because they're determined to pursue an environmentally and socially destructive agenda that places short term monetary gain over long term environmental costs.

At Forest and Bird's conference, Face up to the Future, Morgan also took aim at some conservationist groups he calls the "green extreme" or "loony left".

In particular, he says that their opposition to mining and fracking is not evidence-based, and fails to consider employment and the economy.

"If you're pro-conservation the problem here is you're increasingly being regarded as anti-economic growth. That is not a constructive position to take. It needlessly alienates huge numbers of people," Morgan said.

Most people who are opposed to mining and fracking have based their decision on the evidence. In many cases the environmental damage that can be caused by such practices is unequivocally scientifically proven.

There is of course a large distinction between many industries, but the fact that Morgan is not aware of what the research shows, while spouting brainless right-wing and industry driven rhetoric, makes him look like a complete fool!

He's also contradicting himself. Here's what Gareth Morgan wrote earlier this month:

Whether its species protection, carbon emissions, freshwater, or fisheries - New Zealand's mouth is bigger than its bite it seems. That's a serious indictment given we use clean, green and "NZ Pure" all as branding banners internationally, where we punch above our weight in terms of sounding off about the environmental values we hold dear.

The reality needs to catch up with the sloganeering. Having said that, there are plentiful efforts being made across the country by many - towalk the talk of conservation. And the Department of Conservation of course is the government's main vehicle for effecting conservation and its achievements countfor a lot.

But the problem lies with the claims of politicians mouthing on that we're committed to this or to that, when the reality is the politicians do not ensure these declarations have substance. On that count then we are a failure, and the political salesmen an embarrassment - and this is the WWF charge.

In one instance Morgan is criticizing the propaganda and politicians that say NZ is 100% pure, and then he criticizes the many thousands of New Zealander's who are working to protect the environment and who undoubtedly want the reality to catch up with the sloganeering.

The main thing Morgan fails to recognise is that it's not mutually exclusive to be pro-economic growth as well as an environmentalist. In fact having a healthy environment is paramount to a functioning economy, and having an unhealthy environment will undoubtedly cause an economy to fail.

The environment should not be collateral damage to try and repair the economy, which has been ruined by the greedy and ideologically blinded... and anybody who thinks otherwise is an asshole through and through.

The honeymoon is well and truly over

Today, the NZ Herald reported:

What National has not bargained on is the current level of turmoil possibly draining off more political capital than it can really afford.

In the space of barely five months, the Key-led National minority Government has gone from bullet-proof to bullet-riddled.

Since late January, when the political year started, National has stumbled from blunder to mini-crisis to embarrassment.

Almost without fail - two exceptions being welfare and (so far) local government reform - National has tended to end up on the losing side of the argument.

Even when the Government managed to set the political agenda - the case with its round of pre-Budget spending announcements - it all ended disastrously in the row over class sizes.

The problems have ranged from the banal - Gerry Brownlee's one-man war against Finland which required an apology from Key to Helsinki - to calamities like the resignation of Nick Smith.

There have been the near-scandals and consequent demands for inquiries, which National has refused to satisfy - another bad look.

Some of the distractions and sideshows will have already been forgotten. But some will stick long in the public's consciousness. These include the arguments over asset sales and raising the age of entitlement for national superannuation. On both, National is very much in the minority.

The slow train wreck that is the current National government has received criticism from both left and right alike, and the polls are only just starting to reflect that. In fact no poll has yet shown the publics response to the back-down over the class size debacle, so there's likely to be some pretty bad news for the rightwing in the next round of polling.

The problem is that John Key doesn't really care, because as long as he gets to sell our assets, he's done his job... and I'm not talking about his job as Prime Minister either.

14 Jun 2012

Crusher Collins won't fix it

Today, the NZ Herald reported:

ACC Minister Judith Collins said Mr Stewart told her on Tuesday "he felt it was time for him to move on".

She said she felt sorry for Mr Stewart. "He's had a tough time."

Greens ACC spokesman Kevin Hague said Mr Stewart's resignation cleared the way for Mrs Collins to lead the process for refreshing ACC by steering it away from what he and others claim has been a focus on denying claims to save money and bringing it back to the principles on which it was founded.

"We need to reverse this culture of disentitlement that's taken hold since 2009 and with those key players - [former ACC minister] Nick Smith, John Judge and Ralph Stewart - gone we've got the environment to do that."

Mr Hague said there were serious questions Mrs Collins needed to answer about her role in the Bronwyn Pullar affair.

But Labour's ACC spokesman, Andrew Little, said Mrs Collins should be the next to go as Mr Stewart's resignation confirmed the depth of the crisis.

"It is an absolute disgrace, and it is entirely the responsibility of that Government'', he told the House, and accused Mrs Collins and Dr Smith as her predecessor of driving ACC "into the ground".

Mr Little said ACC now needed a minister who was focused on the needs of ACC claimants rather than on the Government's "tawdry, nasty, filthy little strategy of trying to fleece people and get people to lose their entitlements".

Mrs Collins said it was time for a culture change at ACC but her concerns were about treatment of claimants and their privacy.

Collins has previously inferred that it was OK to automatically decline long-term claimants because there are other ways they can get help. I guess she was talking about WINZ, who have no rehabilitative capability for people who are injured.

What this is all about was some terrible ACC investments that went belly-up and instead of the government stepping in to meet the shortfall, ACC just started penny pinching from people who could least afford it.

Although Bronwyn Pullar is an exception to the rule, injured claimants are usually incapable of fighting back against ACC with its multitude of lawyers and corrupt specialists, that will pretty much do anything to decline people's entitlements.

Now that ACC is posting huge profits (around $3.5 billion in the year to date), National should return ACC to what it was meant to be. Sure, there are some people who rort the system, but this is not a good enough reason to tar everybody with the same brush.

13 Jun 2012

Prison getting harsher

Today, Voxy reported:

The Public Service Association says allowing prison officers to use pepper spray will help keep them safe and comes after a robust trial and evaluation period.


"It's important to remember that it can only be used as an option during a planned force situation and that is very appropriate for the New Zealand prison environment. We would not expect to see it used regularly."

The PSA says it would also like to see the increased use of control dogs in prison investigated further and would urge the Department to undertake a similar trial and assessment process.

Let's hope it's not used to intimidate, or worse yet torture.

12 Jun 2012

Idiot PM in charge

Yesterday, the Sun reported:

HORRIFIED David Cameron got home from a Sunday lunch with family and friends — and discovered he had left his eight-year-old daughter in the pub.

He dashed back and found little Nancy with staff at the Plough Inn in Cadsden, Bucks.

No 10 said: “The PM and wife Samantha were distraught when they realised Nancy wasn’t with them.”

Nancy got left in the pub loo when Mr Cameron drove off after his lunch.

She wandered off to the Ladies as the PM and Samantha were arranging lifts — and they only realised she was missing once they were back home.

Downing Street said: “The PM and Samantha were distraught when they realised Nancy wasn’t with them.

Gets pissed and leaves his kid at the pub. FFS! What a complete idiot!

Waiting for Judith

On the weekend, 60 Minutes reported on the Accident Compensation Corporation and Bronwyn Pullar controversy, which was a damning exposé into how senior ACC management made a false police statement concerning allegations that Pullar had tried to blackmail them.

What they didn’t know at the time was that Pullar had recorded the meeting where the alleged attempted blackmail was said to have occurred, and the tape shows that it was ACC who raised the issue of the leaked documents being returned, not Bronwyn Pullar or her support person Michelle Boag.

Pullar in fact stated that she would not use the documents that had supposedly been accidentally sent to her because she respected people’s privacy. This is a far cry from what ACC claimed in various press releases and their police statement.

So the question is; what will the Minister of ACC do about it?

Judith Collins has been very quiet on this matter, while screaming blue murder that Andrew Little and Trevor Mallard defamed her. It’s hypocritical to use the courts to attack two fellow MPs just to try and silence them while at the same time allowing senior ACC management to make false statements to the media and police without any penalty at all.

The Greens have called for ACC Chair John Judge to go:

This evening's 60 Minutes item concerning ACC's interactions with Bronwyn Pullar has highlighted the need for the Minister to act decisively to restore public trust and confidence in the organisation, says Green Party ACC spokesperson, Kevin Hague.

"The further revelations about shonky assessment and claims handling practices, and lack of integrity at the highest levels means that, at the very least, the ACC Minister should remove John Judge as ACC Chair.

A noble suggestion, but the Nats don't really care if ACC is damaged. This is because a damaged ACC would be easier to privatise, which is the right-wings ultimate goal here. So while Collins can claim:

I cannot emphasize enough how seriously I view recent privacy-related issues. Privacy and information security are the biggest challenges facing ACC at present.

National would actually see no problem with just sitting back and allowing public confidence in ACC erode.

By allowing a couple of lying bastards to get away with making a false complaint to the police, Judith Collins shows she is an ineffective minister. If she does not know what is right from wrong in this situation, in my opinion, she has no place being a minister of the crown at all.

10 Jun 2012

Songs from the Inside - Hero of the Week

There's been an inspirational documentary series running on Maori Television called Songs from the Inside, which gave an insight into the lives of New Zealand prisoners.

The difference to most prison docos is that Songs from the Inside treated the prisoners as human beings, which is important considering the large amount of media attention given to dehumanising inmates.

On March 17, the NZ Herald reported:

Directed by Julian Arahanga, the actor turned director who you might remember as Nig Heke in Once Were Warriors, Songs From the Inside grew out of a programme by music teacher Evan Rhys Davies who trialled it at Waikato's Springhill Prison in the late 2000s.

Though music therapy has been used in prisons around the world, Davies' premise for his programme is to get answers out of prisoners rather than locking them up and forgetting about them.

What impressed me the most was the musical talent displayed. From the beautiful intro song The Gift by Warren Maxwell, to the perfect harmonies throughout the 13 shows, Songs from the Inside exhibited some truly exceptional talent.

On March 31, the Listener reported:

The channel gives the despised reality genre a welcome blast of authenticity with Songs from the Inside, which takes four stellar, nervous musicians – Anika Moa, Maisey Rika, Warren Maxwell (Trinity Roots, Little Bushman) and Ruia Aperahama – inside Arohata and Rimutaka prisons to teach songwriting to inmates. Or, as music teacher Evan Davies explains, “to put your balls on the line”.

It’s sort of Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison meets Gareth Malone, who brought the joys of choral singing to the mean streets of South Oxhey in The Choir. The musicians get stern instruction at a training session on keeping empathy in check. As Moa puts it, “A two-hour presentation on not getting got.” Maxwell frets about some of the warnings. “Especially with that korero about gangland turning up at your whare, saying, ‘I know where your kids go to school.’” Actor Jim Moriarty, an old hand at working a tough crowd, is reassuring: “‘Don’t trust them. They’re going to manipulate you’ – doesn’t that happen in your industry anyway?”

First meetings between musicians and inmates were raw and moving. For some of the new pupils, good lyrics aren’t going to be much of a stretch. “Freedom is not on the other side of these concrete brick walls,” said Tama. “It’s waiting to be found every day inside of us by choice.” Nelly from Porirua, mother of six, saw an opportunity to “upskill in my music”. The series looks set to be a persuasive argument against the “throw away the key and let them rot” brigade. Happily, it’s also entertaining television. Cam from Whangarei had been on the phone to his mum. “She can’t believe I’m doing a production thing like this,” he reported. Outside or in, a reality star is a reality star.

With a little encouragement, thirteen tracks were recorded and turned into a commercially viable product. The rehabilitative qualities this would have encouraged are invaluable.

Spasifik Mag reported:

The result is a deeply personal conclusion to the series. The four artists - Moa, Maxwell, Rika and Aperahama - provide backing vocals and supplementary music, with additional beats by P-Money and drums by Riki Gooch.


Proceeds of CD sales will go to three New Zealand charities: New Zealand Riding For The Disabled Association Inc, Prison Fellowship New Zealand and the National Collective of Independent Women’s Refuges Inc.

Songs from the Inside is the kind of television NZ on Air should be funding.

Myth-busting rightwing prejudices - class sizes

Last night, One news interviewed so-called education expert and governmental advisor John Hattie who claimed that changing the student teacher ratio didn't make much of a difference to student achievement. He was also on Q+A today, and was very unconvincing, displaying all the trademarks of presenting disinformation.

The first thing that struck me was how goddamn awful his presentation to treasury (PDF) looks. But more specifically the garishly presented and badly laid out data is all over the place and without proper reference to where it was sourced.

John Hattie
It claims that "Hundreds of evaluations of reducing class size has zero effect on achievement," but then claims that learning achievement is increased by 0.2 over time for intermediate and 0.4 for preschool.

Keep in mind that these numbers are not percentages; they're an effect size. Hattie also claims that finances available to a school have an effect size on student achievement of only 0.12. This would show that class size is in fact more important than funding.

But there's a huge contradiction here, with the garish report to treasury saying class size has an effect of 0, 0.2, 0.4, and this report by John Hattie from 2003 (PDF) that says the overall effect size is negative 0.05. This simply does not compute.

Hattie is claiming in the latter report that more students per teacher increase achievement outcomes. Around 96% of parents and teachers disagree with the confused professor, mainly because the more one on one teaching time a student gets, the better educational outcome is achieved.

The report also puts the effect size of instructional quality at 1.00. While there is no doubt that teacher quality has a large effect on educational outcomes, blaming teacher's fits nicely into the right-wings agenda, whereby they can cut funding and increase the amount of students in classrooms while criticizing teachers for the resulting low achievement outcomes. Approximately 7 to 20% of school leavers are technically illiterate in New Zealand.

To his credit, Professor Hattie states:

We need to direct attention at higher quality teaching, and higher expectations that students can meet appropriate challenges - and these occur once the classroom door is closed and not by reorganizing which or how many students are behind those doors, by promoting different topics for these teachers to teach, or by bringing in more sticks to ensure they are following policy.

But this does not excuse National's complete rubbish argument that teacher quality would be improved by increasing class sizes. Hattie has also contradicted himself by writing in 2003 that student/teacher ratios should not be changed, but then advises National that they should be. Perhaps he likes changing his message dependent on who is in power?

The main problem is that Hattie fails to find a long run impact on attainment, he measures the effect on small numbers of students where the variable is reduced, his conclusion does not use stringent conditions to decide what studies to disregard and many if not all of the studies he has used have methodological problems. This almost guarantees that Hattie's findings for the relationship between student/teacher ratio and student learning is biased.

So let's look at a few major international studies that are not biased:

The Impact of Class Size and Number of Students on Outcomes in Higher Education (PDF):

Reducing class sizes and the total number of students that a faculty member is responsible for teaching in a semester will lead to significant improvements in student outcomes.

Class size reduction in grade K-3 (PDF):

Reducing class size in Grades K-3 has been found to have academic benefits in all subject areas, especially for children living in poverty. Studies published since the mid-1980s show that classroom behavior and test scores improve while students are in small classes. Further, the improvement persists through the middle school and high school years, even though students return to full-size classes. To reap the full range of benefits, it is important that pupils enter small classes in the early years (Grades K or 1) and continue in small classes for three or more years. Students who attend small classes are also more likely to take college-entrance examinations; this is especially true for minority students.

The effect of class size on the teaching of pupils aged 7-11 years (PDF):

Practical tasks become less common, teacher demonstrations increase and pupils have less ‘hands on’ experience. So, though the curriculum coverage remains the same, the tasks through which it is experienced are different, and in some ways more superficial. However, this possible linkage between types of task and class size is mainly based on suggestions from the case studies and needs more thorough testing. 
Our results suggest several other ways in which smaller classes allow opportunities for teaching, though these flow less obviously from less children in the class. The first is maximizing individualization and differentiation by teaching to small groups. This would have the benefits of interactive whole class teaching, but would be potentially more focused and better differentiated in terms of pupil ability. It is perhaps here that one might seek to maximize the effectiveness of individual attention. Other areas have been couched in terms consistent with Anderson’s (2000) model and include: personalized, appropriate instruction; more adventurous teaching that extends the teaching repertoire, a more active (less passive) role for pupils, that includes more opportunities for help seeking.

Conclusion: Whole class teaching is not an acceptable alternative to individual support of pupils’ learning, increasing the amount of students per teacher has a detrimental effect on learning and John Hattie should not be advising the government with biased research.

It's understandable that the garish report was laid out in a way that treasury officials and National politician's could understand, but the blatant contradiction between the two reports and Hattie claiming increasing class sizes improves student achievement gets a big fat F for fail!

9 Jun 2012

Government doesn't care about child poverty

We all know that poverty and especially childhood poverty is a terrible thing. Nobody can really argue with the moral case for reducing poverty, but there's also a good economical argument for reducing childhood poverty as well.

Adults who grow up impoverished have lower workforce productivity, early mortality and poorer health later in life. Some studies also show that people who grow up in poverty are more likely to undertake crime. These things costs a developed country with high poverty levels like New Zealand approximately 4% of GDP per year.

It's not like the problem isn't well understood either, with OECD research now showing that 1 in 4 New Zealand children are currently living in poverty.

In feb 2011, 3 News reported: Govt ignoring poverty in favour of economy - Sallies

A new report out today by the Salvation Army claims social progress in New Zealand has ground to a halt.

It says the Government is ignoring important issues such as child poverty in favour of tackling the economic crisis.

“The recession is not an excuse not to do anything about the social agenda or leave the social agenda on hold,” says Campbell Roberts, of the Salvation Army Social Policy Unit.

A new social study claims child poverty is at its highest level since 2006, with more than 200,000 children living in "workless" households.

Violence against children and youth unemployment rates are as high as five years ago.

On Jan 15, Stuff reported: Teen becomes leading voice on child poverty

Clair Mills, the medical officer of health for Northland, says the region has some shocking housing, with issues not only around cold and damp but sanitation and water. "We certainly have high rates of preventable illnesses like rheumatic fever, which really should be a developing country disease."

The government is calling for submissions on a green paper on vulnerable children, but Mills says the problem with the paper is that it mentions poverty once and ignores the big issues of why children are "vulnerable" in the first place.

"I think it's impossible to talk about the vulnerability of children without talking about their families and the situations in which they live. The paper really sidelines some of the major issues facing our children today and focuses on issues like whether we should have compulsory reporting of abuse. To me that's the tip of the iceberg."

On 24 April, 3 News reported: Poverty stays in the family - study

Children brought up in poor families are likely to achieve less at school, earn less and be more welfare dependent.

A study, using data from Otago University's long-running Christchurch Health and Development Study, investigated the impacts of family poverty on children up to the age of 10 and how this was reflected in later life.

The study using information from 987 individuals found the major effects of being brought up in a poor family appear to be a significant reduction in both educational achievement and earning opportunities that was still evident at 30, Professor David Fergusson said.

On 29 May, Stuff reported: Children in poverty 'lost' to education system

At least 1000 Auckland children are "lost" to the education system with 70 per cent of youth offenders not engaged with school at all, a new report reveals.

Poverty is so bad some children are growing up sharing small homes with other families - one family to a room.

The sad findings are contained in a report to Mayor Len Brown, called The Children and Young People of Auckland, which includes insights from a Youth Court judge, the office of the Children's Commissioner and youth panels and advocacy groups.

On 30 May, Voxy reported: Unicef report card on poverty names crisis of monitoring

Every Child Counts says the latest report from the UNICEF Innocenti Research centre in Italy reveals a crisis in monitoring of child poverty and confirms that not protecting children from poverty stores up intractable social and economic problems in the years ahead.

On 30 May, the NZ Herald reported: Child poverty report sparks call for better monitoring

The Unicef report, Measuring Child Poverty, ranked New Zealand 20th out of 35 OECD economies for child poverty.

It used the number of households earning less than 50 per cent of the median income as a measure.

The report also ranked 29 developed countries on deprivation - a measure which looks at the likes of services, opportunities and possessions rather than income alone.

New Zealand was not included in deprivation rankings because the data was not up to date.

On 30 May, Voxy reported: Government policy impacting child poverty levels

The report, from UNICEF's Innocenti Research Centre, brings together the latest data on child poverty and deprivation across the world's advanced industrial economies. It uses the measure of a poverty line as a household receiving less than 50% of median disposable household income.

On this basis, New Zealand comes in at number 20 of 35 countries. New Zealand is above the UK and Japan but below Australia, Ireland, Hungary and Slovakia.

The report maintains that poverty is not an inevitable situation but is susceptible to government policy. Dennis McKinlay, Executive Director at UNICEF NZ, said, 
"The Government needs to do a lot better for our children in New Zealand. As this report shows, policy choices have a significant impact on the lives of our young people. The right choices give young people the opportunity for a good start in life and have the ability to solve some of our most serious social problems."
New Zealand's spending on children and families is relatively high on the league table at 3% of GDP.
McKinlay added, "It could be said that a good proportion of that spending is in remedial services, to counter the effect of low spending in the early years of a child's life, which is less than half of the OECD average.

On 31 May, Voxy reported: Heads out of the sand NZ - CPAG

CPAG agrees with UNICEF that the prevention of child poverty and social exclusion belong at the heart of policy making, whether at national, regional, or local level. International comparison shows that child poverty in industrialised countries is not inevitable, but influenced by government policy as CPAG has long said. Some countries are doing much better than others at protecting their most vulnerable citizens.

This is but a small selection of the many hundreds of articles concerning childhood poverty in New Zealand. Here's some of the solutions recommended by the experts:

  • Universal pre-kindergarten programs
  • Various elementary and secondary school reforms
  • Expansions of the Earned Income Tax Credit and other income supports for the working poor
  • Free Job training for poor adults
  • Higher minimum wages, increased benefits and more collective bargaining
  • Low-income neighborhood revitalization, housing mobility and affordability

And the government's response.... National want to talk about solutions with their Green Paper (PDF) instead of making changes now. Paula Bennett also put out a video, which effectively means nothing!

National have failed... Basically because they really don't give a damn.

Mortgagee sales: who is to blame?

Today, the NZ Herald reported:

Mortgagee sales have hit record numbers, and landlords are the new victims.

Figures from the Terralink International land and property information company show about six forced sales a day nationally, or 44 a week, challenging statistics from, which has claimed that foreclosures are declining.

Terralink managing director Mike Donald said it was no longer struggling couples who were hurting but property investors, and he predicted this year could be New Zealand's worst for foreclosures.

"There has been a large increase in the number of mortgagee sales for individuals, considered to be property investors, who own multiple properties," said Mr Donald.

Terralink recorded 524 mortgagee sales from January to March, at least 100 more than in the same period last year and more than the previous record of 519 mortgagee sales in 2010 when New Zealand was at the height of the recession.

If you needed any other economic indicator that National's policy direction is a complete failure, there it is. Despite the right-wings statistical manipulations, New Zealand is in fact in the grip of a harsh double dip recession.
Don't be expecting the government to do anything about it either... Because they're sitting pretty as owners of multiple properties. Why should they care about less New Zealander's being able to afford a family home?

Real Estate Institute chief executive Helen O'Sullivan said the rising number of mortgagee sales could be reflecting a stronger housing market.

"Banks might be taking the opportunity of buoyant prices to release stock that's been lurking for a while."

Not likely O'Sullivan. An increase in mortgagee sales is an indicator of a stagnant and low waged economy, whereby people are not able to generate enough wealth to pay their mortgages. It's as simple as that.

8 Jun 2012

Hekia Parata - Asshole of the Week

The last couple of weeks have been an unmitigated disaster for Education Minister Hekia Parata. Not only was she unable to provide accuracy concerning a reduction in teacher student ratios, she entrenched herself deeply with rhetoric in the face of overwhelming opposition.

Nobody but the most ideologically blinded Nact supporter believed reducing the amount of teachers would equate to better learning outcomes, and teachers, parents and the wider community were entirely against the idea.

The policy change was a hard sell, and Parata bumbled and flip-flopped her way through interview after interview, which only served to annoy those who actually care about our children. The opposition had a field day, with mounting ammunition and public support at their backs, this turned into a lose lose scenario for National, who had no option but to back down.

Today, the NZ Herald reported:

No more compromises; just capitulation - complete and utter. Hekia Parata yesterday surrendered to the inevitable less than two days after saying she was not going to budge any further on the vexed question of teacher-pupil ratios.

Further compromise was never an option, however. It would not have silenced the education lobby groups. Those representatives of teachers, principals and boards of trustees would have continued to press for full reversal of the policy which would have seen many schools lose one or two teacher positions.

The Dominion Post reported:

A range of new cuts within the education spend will be sought, but some of the hole will almost certainly be filled by passing the cost on to the new spending allowance of next year's Budget.

That is sure to annoy Ms Parata's Cabinet colleagues and seriously undermine her stocks as a minister.

"I'm the minister and the buck stops with me – I'm accountable for these decisions," she said.

A shortfall of $174 million will still need to be found from cuts, which will mainly be made in the education sector. Parata has said this could come from teacher training, which would also have a negative effect on educational outcomes for students.

It's worth keeping in mind that National is spending $14 billion on new highways instead of improving teacher quality, which goes to show exactly where their priorities lie.

National's changes to teacher student ratios was a badly researched, poorly thought out and terribly executed policy that threatened to kick education in the guts. Their failure to spin enough propaganda and humiliating backdown will have lost them support.

As the Minister of Education, the buck stops with Hekia Parata... She should resign.

7 Jun 2012

National manipulating parliamentary process

Today, RadioNZ reported:

Opposition parties accuse the Government of trampling over parliamentary process as it pushes its asset sales legislation through the Finance and Expenditure Select Committee.

The Mixed Ownership Model Bill is expected to be reported back to Parliament next week, prompting criticism from the Greens and Labour.

The select committee was originally due to report the bill back by 16 July.

Talk about rushing to get the legislation passed before the referendum petition gets enough signatures. This is typical of National, who often manipulate parliamentary process to suit their stupid agenda.

You can download the petition to Keep Our Assets here (PDF).

6 Jun 2012

Paula Bennett's dog whistle

Today, the NZ Herald reported:

The Government is considering ways to prevent child abusers from having further children or to take children away from them at birth.

Social Development minister Paula Bennett told Radio NZ that over the past year, 148 newborn babies were taken away from their parents because of fears for their safety.

She said the Cabinet was considering a range of options to deal with the issue of known child abusers or killers having further children - including allowing the Court to direct someone convicted of serious child abuse or neglect or murder not to have more children.

She said it would not be forced sterilisation, but if any parent under such an order did have a child it would be taken from them at birth.

While there is an argument that people who are unfit to have children shouldn't be allowed them, the reality of such a directive is largely impractical. Besides, there are already laws in place that are meant to protect children and young people.

The Young Persons and Their Families Act 1989 (PDF) allows for children or young people to be placed in the custody of the Chief Executive when their parents are unfit or incapable of looking after them. At the moment the decision is made by the Family Court, and there are a number of grounds outlined in section 14 of the Act that defines whether a child or young person is in need of care or protection.

The problem with Paula Bennett's proposal is firstly that it places more onus on the state to decide who is unfit to have children, which will be fraught with mistakes; Secondly there is no way to stop people having children, except for forced sterilization; and thirdly there is already a system in place whereby unfit parents lose their children... so this is really an exercise in futility by National, that will obviously appeal to all those bigots out there.

National is playing to people's misconceptions, being that the amount of children in the custody of the Chief Executive has been steadily declining in recent years, from 6,136 in 2008 to 5,020 in 2011.

This raises questions about the reasoning behind Paula Bennett's announcement dog whistle, being that there is a trend downwards of children needing to be removed from their parents. There simply does not need to be any further strengthening of the current laws, because interventions have declined by over 18% since 2008.

Clearly Paula Bennett hasn't based her announcement on anything resembling research.
The other problem is that removing children from their parents does not automatically solve the issue of abuse. In the year to June 2011, there were 30 reported cases of abuse of children or young people in the direct care of CYF's that were referred to the police.

CYF's has not provided information concerning the abuse of children or young people they've placed in out of home care (consisting of 77% or 3,885 of those in the custody of the Chief Executive in 2011), but this is likely to be at or above the levels of abuse by direct CYF's caregivers.

Only 30% of all fulltime CYF staff are registered social workers. CYF's has approximately 3100 full time staff with 989 of these registered. Around 1203 of staff are working directly with children or young people, meaning that 22% of CYF staff working directly with vulnerable people are not registered social workers.

But I digress; there is no question that unloving and abusive parents can have a detrimental effect on the psychological development of a child or young person, but severing the attachment bond also has a detrimental effect. Giving the state even more powers to remove children from their parents, when the end results are not proven to be beneficial, is a recipe for disaster.

The real solution to reduce the amount of children and young people who are abused by their parents is to implement policy that actually makes a difference in their lives... namely reducing inequality and increasing social cohesion. Unfortunately National don't seem particularly interested in doing either.

Bomber Bradbury vs Imperator Fish

Oh dear, there's something terribly wrong when Slater starts cheerleading your cause.

Today, Whailoil reported:

Scott Yorke and Martyn “DBD” Bradbury have been having a one sided battle of wits. I say one sided because Scott has all the wits and Martyn is just a half-wit, or if I am feeling especially unkind, which I am, a fuck-wit.

Anyway Martyn got upset again at Scott and wrote a vitriol filled post. Scott has responded with a post of his own. In that post he proposes a Deed of Settlement for their dispute.

It is a piece of genius. I particularly like the resolution process that involves dueling.


Scott wins, it was a comprehensive victory. His post and attacked Deed of Settlement is the finest piece of Blog-taliation I have ever seen. It is fit for Boing Boing.

This should be reason enough for Scott Yorke at Imperator Fish to reconsider who exactly is the butt of his jokes... perhaps he has:

Have you ever been involved [in] one of those endless disputes on the internet that you just can't seem to escape? It's like one of those schoolyard fights where the first person to walk away and say they've had enough is labelled a coward and loser by the other, even if the reason why you want to walk away is because the other person is talking gibberish, and because it is three in the f**king morning and you just need to sleep. It's okay to sleep sometimes.

I have not yet reached that point in my exchanges with Martyn Bradbury, but I fear things are escalating. To recap, he wrote a post about me, I wrote a post mocking him, we had an exchange on Twitter, and now he has written another post about me. My immediate reaction is to want to taunt him further, particularly with regard to his claim that Cameron Slater is my new best friend (a claim that anyone who actually reads my work will find as entertaining as I do), but I suspect that lefties labelling each other as friends of Slater may be something similar to the phenomenon known as Godwin's Law.

As an outside observer who has no vested interest in either side winning, this all seems rather tedious to me. What sparked the dispute off and the main issue here is whether the Greens and Labour can work together, which is something Bomber thinks is a trivial matter:

While Scott York bitches about the little things, (imperatorfish is latin for 'so much effort, so few laughs'), conventional wisdom for Labour has been not to compete with the Greens but with the Greens recent success perhaps Labour needs a new strategy?

I mean, how does one compete with Metiria's speech at the conference? This is simply one of the best political speeches on social justice ever given.

Metiria's speech was very good, but I'm not sure how exactly Labour is meant to compete here... by giving good speeches as well perhaps. I think that's exactly what David Shearer has been doing.

I also don't think the complete brain fart on twitter by some Labour MP's is such a small thing. It points towards possible difficulties in forming a working relationship between the two parties, which is imperative if New Zealand is to get moving again. Imperator Fish made the same conclusion as The Jackal:

There will always be some rivalry between Labour and the Greens, because they are competing for the same group of voters.

But if Labour and the Greens are going to form a government after the 2014 election, they will need to learn to work together, rather than quarrel over things that don't matter.

A couple of senior Labour people have been using Twitter this weekend to attack the Greens and Russel Norman because (oh the horror!) the Greens may or may not have changed their policy on mining.

This makes Labour look like a pack of clowns, and turns many supporters off. It should stop.

Fomenting division between the Greens and Labour might suit a Mana supporter I suppose (it certainly suits rabid National propagandists), but ultimately it's damaging to the entire leftwing, and should not be promoted by anybody who wants to see an end to National's reign of failure that is destroying New Zealand.

There are no winners in this battle.