Sunday, March 28, 2010

Frank Newman: Drug dealer sentenced to spend time with his mother

An article appearing in today’s issue of the Sunday Star Times says a great deal about our judiciary. The article starts out, "The brother of Apprentice star and football club owner Terry Serepisos has been convicted for a string of serious drug offences, including supplying methamphetamine.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Mike Butler: One voice against the ETS

Act MP John Boscawen was speaking to a largely empty parliament last Wednesday, when he called on Prime Minister John Key to either scrap the Emissions Trading Scheme or delay it indefinitely. “From 1 July we can expect an immediate increase of five percent in the price of electricity and of four cents per litre in the price of petrol. Those increases are expected to double on 1 January 2013”, he said.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Roger Kerr: Figures Highlight New Zealand's Productivity Crisis

Last week Statistics New Zealand delivered a damning verdict on the economic stewardship of the Clark-Cullen government. It released productivity data for the year to March 2009, effectively the last year of that government’s term of office. Productivity is a measure of the output we get from the economic resources we use, and hence the income the country earns. In the long term, productivity growth largely determines New Zealanders’ per capita incomes – our material standards of living.

Mike Butler: Tinkering with welfare

The Government’s move this week to push beneficiaries into work has been called reform, but closer inspection reveals that the changes have high political marketing appeal but will bring little actual change. The initial appeal was reflected in a totally unscientific opinion poll, conducted on Yahoo Xtra’s web site, which showed 76 percent in support of the $88-million package.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Allan Peachey: Teacher quality key to student achievement

How do we deal with the 25 percent of students who are not learning? How do we deal with the highest achieving students who require constant challenge and many of whom are capable of doing even better? How do we deal with the mid-range students who do OK but from whom we actually need to expect much more? How do we deal with the mid-range students who are failing when they could be passing because we do not expect enough of them? Regardless of how each of these questions is put, the answer to each of them is the same – improve the quality of teaching.

Ron Smith: Nuclear Waste - Opportunity or Imposition

The town of Carlsbad, in southern New Mexico, is famous for the enormous and widely visited Carlsbad Caverns, some 20 miles south of the town. Much more recently, Carlsbad has also become known as the site (just east of the town) of the first operating deep-geological repository for long-lived nuclear waste. I first visited what became known as the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in the middle of 1999, the year it opened and I was there again, a little over twelve months later, at an international meeting devoted (of course!) to discussing the disposal of nuclear wastes.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

David Round: The Waikato River Settlement Bill

Our subject matter this week is not calculated to provoke the irritation and anger which the subject matter of these columns often (and rightly) calls forth. It is a matter not calling for instant judgments, and not one with clearly identifiable right and wrong; but that is good. It is a matter that goes beyond Treaty issues and touches upon environmental ones. There will be more of these issues, and it is good to think about them. It is, indeed, a news item as much as anything else.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Mike Butler: A message from property investors

Too much money is going into bricks and mortar and this is creating an unbalanced tax system, Tukituki MP Craig Foss told a meeting of property investors in Havelock North on Friday, March 19. Speaking as the chairman of the government’s finance and expenditure committee, Mr Foss emphasized that nothing had been finalized in proposed changes that would most likely end the ability of residential property investors to claim depreciation as a loss, and end the use of loss attributing qualifying companies to offset rental losses against income from elsewhere, mainly a high-paying job.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Mike Butler: Crime and punishment

Crime and Punishment, the first part of the Real Crime series on TV One on Tuesday nights, looked at crime and punishment largely from the “don’t jail them, rehabilitate them” perspective. The documentary gave considerable space to initiatives tried by Finland’s corrections department, which reduced its prison population by replacing jail time with community service, shorter sentences and suspended sentences.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Frank Newman: Activists on Council Payroll

While I have done my utmost to ignore the local political scene since retiring as a councillor in 2004, I could not resist the temptation to call in on a local community consultation meeting last week. The meeting was called to receive community input on “Sustainable Futures 30/50”, an ambitious plan which purports to have the objective of asking people what they would like our district to be like in 2050. The exercise raises a number of interesting issues.

David Round: Axing the Thought Police

Just off the top of your head, as they say, what would you imagine the job of the Race Relations Commissioner to entail? Well, we would say, scratching our heads as we racked our brains, he would surely be in charge of promoting good race relations ~ a rather vague project, admittedly. We will have read his pronouncements in the newspapers, and be aware that he receives complaints which he may or may not do something about, depending on whether they coincide with his own prejudices or not. It is all a bit worthy, and we are aware of the traditional anti-pakeha prejudice of the office, but nevertheless we cannot object too much in principle to the general idea.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Mike Butler: Alas poor Joris

Just when it seemed that summer, cricket, and silly celebrity stories had replaced the usual political commentary, our Race Relations Conciliator kicked up some non-conciliatory dust in making a late call for dedicated Maori seats on the new Auckland council. That call was in a statement releasing the Human Rights Commission annual review of race relations. Mr de Bres raised concerns about a lack of ethnic representation in the new combined council. The Government has turned down a proposal for dedicated Maori seats on the council, but that decision is still being fought by various groups who fear ethnic minorities will be overlooked and disadvantaged.

Mike Butler: Nats create enemy on the right

Glad to see that the NZ Property Investors’ Federation is going into battle over the proposed changes affecting property tax. The NZ Property Investors Association said landlords would lose on average $1750 a year if they lost the tax rebate and this amounted to $34 a week, which would be passed on to tenants, according to ONE News. Labour MP Trevor Mallard echoed the warning when he said the increase could be as much as $45 across 400,000 households.

Ron Smith: The Assassination of Indira Gandhi

Recent controversy surrounding the depiction in certain South Auckland Sikh temples of the killers of Indira Gandhi as heroes raises a number of thorny questions. When is political assassination justified, if it ever is? Was the 1984 killing of Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi justified? Was it ‘terrorism’? Should we have a view about the honouring of such people?

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Frank Newman: Race based seats on councils

Calls by the Race Relations Commissioner (and supported by Super City mayoral candidate, Len Brown) for race based representation on the council are foolish. I do not accept so called minorities suffer any more or less discrimination than any one else in our society. There is no evidence that voters do not elect “minority” candidates where those candidates are credible.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

David Round: Reflections on Avatar

Have you seen the film Avatar? Simply everyone is talking about it.

I have seen it, but am not sure if I should recommend it or not. The special effects are amazing, of course, but I have to say that the plot leaves a little to be desired. It is not so much that the plot is shaky ~ it is a perfectly reasonable, tried and true story, pretty predictable therefore, but tried and true precisely because it is true to real life, where such changes in attitude do actually happen. No, the plot is unsatisfactory not so much because of its lack of surprises as because of its superficiality. While keeping the story, action and special effects exactly as they are it could have explored issues more deeply and become an opportunity to dwell on some of human life’s eternal perplexities and tragedies.

Roger Kerr: Reducing Alcohol Harm - Nanny State or Individual Responsibility?

Recently some interesting points have emerged in the alcohol debate. First, the 2025 Taskforce noted that among the good things of life that Australians enjoy with their higher incomes is alcohol. They consume about 10% more alcohol a year than we do. Alcohol consumption per head actually fell in New Zealand after liquor laws were liberalised in the late 1980s, increased more recently with rising incomes, but is still significantly lower today than 30 years ago. Moreover, the Ministry of Social Development’s recent Social Report notes that New Zealand had the 13th lowest level of alcohol consumption out of 30 OECD countries in 2003-07.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Frank Newman: Super city contagion

The super city contagion is spreading. Now the three councils north of the super city boundary are voluntarily entering into “public consultation” about devolving the Northland Regional Council into the local authorities to create either one or two larger councils from the four.

The move is a good case study of how vested interests seize opportunities to hitch their wagon onto the political movements of the day. I know the local political scene and the personalities involved well enough to know that the local government amalgamation agenda in Northland is nothing more than an raid on the asset rich Northland Regional Council. It’s a Genghis Khan rape and pillage type raid, without the screaming and bloodletting.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Mike Butler: Ignorance makes decisions tougher

Tough political decisions will be made tougher because of voter ignorance, former National Party leader Don Brash told last weekend’s ACT Party conference. Dr Brash pointed to "failure of teachers to teach and politicians to explain some of the basic facts of life", along with “grossly superficial and sometimes totally misleading so-called news on state television."

He cited "the near total failure of the public to see any connection between the sudden requirement by the Labour Government in 2008 that employers would have to pay the same amount to someone coming out of high school at 16 as they paid to an adult, and, the resulting very sharp increase in youth unemployment.”