Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Dodging definitions in EFB

Supporters of Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul have demonstrated how easy it is to avoid proscriptive definitions on electoral advertising:



No-one is soliciting a vote for Ron Paul. All the blimp asks is that you Google him.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Poisoning Pigeons in the Park

Public servants and other office workers are in fear for their life, or at least their lunch, by pigeons in Midland Park. Defenceless retail assistants are getting mugged for their muffins, prompting Wellington City Council to issue an ultimatum to park users. Stop feeding them and littering, or the pigeons will be "culled."

While council staff consider "the most effective and humane way of culling the population," here's a range of suggestions free of charge:
  • Have recordings of Jim Anderton speeches broadcast over speakers in the park. Either no-one will stay long enough to litter or feed the pigeons, or the drone will put the pigeons to sleep.
  • Taser them. If it's humane enough to use on humans, it's OK for pigeons.
  • Use up excess stocks of BZP by putting doses in raisins for the pigeons to consume.
  • Have some bodypainters paint the birds with the NZ flag and let Tame Iti complete his community service by shooting at them.
  • Turn John Key's mass of useless DVDs into shurikens. Charge $2 for a throw at a pigeon.
  • Trevor Mallard spends summer working as a scarecrow at Midland Park. Optional extra, he can threaten to punch people for littering or feeding the birds.
  • Sign up all the pigeons as National party members and let the Labour government do the rest.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

A nice pair

Auckland is invading Wellington over the next few days. There's the Blammers and RB coming down for a gig at the Second AWAs tomorrow night tonight. Tonight If you miss out a spot at Might Mighty, there's Michelle A'Court and Jan Maree at the San Francisco Bath House Comedy Night. 8:30 onwards, $15 on the door (Cheap!) Next week, Ewen Gilmour takes the stage.

Thank you for whingeing, you *%$@!

Fidel's Cafe has been fined $600 for allowing smoking in the rear section of their premises:
"Acting on a complaint last year, smokefree enforcement officers from Regional Public Health contacted the cafe about the breach, reminding staff of their legal obligations. Though the cafe agreed to alter the smoking area to comply, staff let people continue to smoke and failed to erect non-smoking signs or remove ashtrays."
The last civilised place to relax with coffee and cigarettes has been dobbed in to the safety nazis. Not content with the huge non-smoking area available in the main cafe, some cum stain of an excuse for a human being has bleated to the health police about the back porch where people could relax and enjoy their rituals without being exposed to inclement weather. Tosser.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Happy Birthday Roger



Although I didn't have a spare $90 to attend Sir Roger's birthday at the Beehive tonight, my heartiest congratulations to Roger on his 70th birthday. Cactus Kate has a good spiel on His Douglasness.

I always enjoyed Roger's company when I visited Dad in parliament. Roger had a mellowing effect on the old man. Many years later, it was a pleasure having Roger at my roulette table at Sky City's VIP lounge, where I would try to section spin for him.

All the best to you, Roger.

Royale with Kiwis

GONZO FREAKPOWER BRAINS TRUST
PRESS RELEASE
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Following the Green Party's call for an independent inquiry into electoral financing and the Ombudman's call for a Royal Commission on the criminal justice system, the goNZo Freakpower Brains Trust calls for a Royal Commission on Everything.

"Everything's completely buggered," Chief Executive of the goNZo Freakpower Brains Trust, Will de Cleene, says. "The hospitals are fucked, the prisons munted, the justice system a labyrinthine latrine which favours only those who can afford a decent lawyer. The tertiary education sector is nothing more than a kindergarten for retards, leaving our overcrowded and corrupt prisons as the best public education system on offer."

The goNZo Freakpower Brains Trust calls for a Royal Commission with infinite terms of reference. "This country's been pissing about for too long," says de Cleene. "It's time we got our shit together."

ENDS

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

EFB Live

The marathon on the EFB has started. It's good TV til Outrageous Fortune. Just caught the end of a round of Points of Order that ended up recalling a very grumpy Margaret Wilson to the House. There are still no sign of the 150 amendments alluded to by DPF in the public realm.

Oh dear, votes now being taken on a number of amendments proposed by Chris Finlayson. Insert a word here, a subclause there. A vocal vote is taken, someone objects, party votes are taken labouriously. Each vote comes out the same: 56-65. It's fillibusting on a base level.

Maybe I'll just watch the sunset instead...

Monday, December 03, 2007

Final thoughts before urgency

Labour are determined to enhance participatory democracy by ramming through the Electoral Finance Bill by the end of the year. Tomorrow will see the start of one of the harshest, meanest, longest sittings in NZ's parliamentary history. For their sins, Labour have only themselves to blame. What remains to be seen is whether the Greens can regain any of the moral high ground.

It seems like yesterday that I was sitting in class listening to Dr Helena Catt outline her thoughts on how electoral finance could be reformed. It involved true transparency of election funding, with both state and private contributions playing their part. What with Parliamentary Services and the broadcasting allocations currently used to fund party advertising, it is a no-brainer to include taxpayer funding in any new scheme.

It involved simplicity, thereby fostering public participation by clarifying what the rule book said.

I may have misheard, but what little Dr Catt said about "third party" regulation involved a carrot and stick approach. Yes, third parties could be registered, but in return they too might have dibs on public funding to express their voices come election time. It was an inspired way to address the democratic deficit of falling voter turnout. Get people involved in third parties and lobby groups, saying things in their own voice in their own way. Handshake it into the mainstream audience through allocated funding. Brilliant.

So, back in April 2006, the Electoral Commission had a pretty good idea of how to tidy the whole thing up. There was nothing preventing the government from throwing these ideas out to the public forum then and there. Ineptly, they bled the state funding story out to test the waters.
It was an early sign of a complete mishandling of such a delicate matter. The waters seethed like a Rotorua mudpool and the government threw up their hands up in pain and defeat, dismissing public funding as political suicide.

Instead, they chose a more drawn-out method of self-immolation. The Electoral Finance Bill was drawn up in secret, a most novel method of increasing democratic participation.

The Electoral Funding Symposium in June was timed to coincide with the release of the draft EFB. It was a reasonable enough assumption. A light Order Paper allowed ample time for the process of legislating the Bill. Who in their right mind would attempt to push through such a controversial Bill less than 12 months before a general election?

The Symposium was to provide a forum on the EFB. Lacking a body to dissect, it ended up being an interesting morning of case studies and overview of existing electoral finance structures, followed by a yawning range of party policy statements in the afternoon.

The launch of the Electoral Finance Bill in July made the KiwiSaver launch look lucid in comparison. Mark Burton couldn't sell umbrellas to Aucklanders, let alone such a mish-mash of mischievous mayhem. I'm flabbergasted that none of Labour's strategists saw this mess coming. What is it with this year? Who died or quit? 2007 seems to be the year Labour lost its head and went feral.

And I have an abiding suspicion that the left wing voting bloc is going to get very feral next year. Methinks Labour have put a big banana skin in the path of the Greens and the Greens are blithely heading straight for it. Even in its current incarnation, the EFB will end up biting the Greens more than Labour. By supporting the EFB, the Greens may be creating their own nemesis.

Judging from Jeanette Fitzsimons launching the F Bomb on the steps of parliament, they are keenly aware of what is at stake. If the Greens are responsible for moderating the EFB in such a way that NORML may be exempt from its effect, that's all well and good. However, it does not remove the very strange precedents still embedded in this Bill. It does not mitigate the reprehensible way this Bill was put together, nor the way it will be rammed through without proper public consultation and input.

How can the Greens salvage some integrity? It's a shame that National have ruled out any deals on the Bill. For National, not the Greens. The Nats have eliminated any chance for bonus points on the Section 59 precedent. John Key will not save the day this time. It's up to the Green MPs to score the points instead.

On a minor victory level, the Greens could amend where they can, and admit the Bill is flawed and ugly. They could agree to the EFB on condition that an amendment is included that terminates the EFB after the next election. It would coincide with the death of the Interim Meaning Bill too. Russel Norman has gone on record for supporting a Citizen's Jury. A Royal Commission does not rule this out. The Nats have already said they'll repeal, so there's nothing lost in the end.

If the Greens are looking for a dramatic flourish, there's another option. Kill the Bill. Not in its entirety, just on necessary clauses. No-one in Labour has yet demonstrated the fixation on January 1st being the start of the regulated period. Three months prior is the generally accepted standard. Vote down January 1 and stick with three months. One could quibble over things such as fixing the election date in stone (notwithstanding a vote of no-confidence) as a pre-requisite. Or the Greens could throw out defintion (ii), therefore defining an electoral advertisement only as attempting to persuade to vote or not vote explicitly for a party or candidate (i).

Nandor, Meyt and Keith crossed the floor for the Dog Microchipping Bill. Surely they can do it again for a much more important reason?

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The grass may be greener but the streets are meaner

Maybe I've been reading too much of Colleen McCullough's Masters of Rome series, but spring is now ingrained as the opening of Campaign Season. It's that time of year when anything is possible. Let the die fly high.

The festival circuit posters are out. I've already committed to going to the RaggaMuffin gig, come Hell or Helen. Tempted by Kiwiburn, now WOMAD's gone all commercial like Big Day Out. Also pondering requesting a spot in the Speakers Tent at Parihaka. No, not yet. The timing is all wrong. Maybe after a spell at Toastmasters. Yeah, that'll do it. We can't all be teachers or lawyers, used to speaking in public. Gotta kill that "don't fuck it up" mantra thing that keeps happening.

Well, it's about time to settle into a theme I suppose. How about a recap of the previous week? It's been good stuff.

Last Monday, attending the NZ Drug Foundation's AGM. They got the boring crap out of the way pronto, and featured a debate between some university teams debating "All Drugs Should Be Legalised." Charles Chauvel was moderating. Nice to see him continue turning up in all the right places. The audience decided that the negative team proved the most convincing, including me. Great fun for seeing what the lie of the land is. Tricky, but not insurmountable. I seriously rate the choice of chocolate cake served afterwards. It gave a whole new perspective to the definition of drug. Damn that anandamide!!

On Wednesday, attended the march to parliament on the Electoral Finance Bill. Got many beeps walking into town on the way there for my double-sided placard. On one side, "People, not PR and Pledge Card" (I ran out of room for the plural). On the other, it said "Greens! WTF u doing?" Both sides were subscripted with "This electoral advertisement was authorised by me."For the record, the sign did not say "fuck."

I had no idea of the huge drama that a chaotic event like an upturned plane on a runway would cause, even when Stephen Franks kept going on about it when I bumped into him on the way to Civic Square. Here he was, telling me the march was turning to custard, and here's me poking and prodding for completely different information. Inappropriate conversation is my forte. Get me on a roll and I can put both feet in my mouth with ease. It's why I'm gun-shy of influential people.

At Civic Square, I strike up awkward conversation with the grouplets of fellow marchers, managing to alienate one Act supporter with anti-Gary Mallet comments (Honestly, bring back Catherine Judd). Oh, the march has started, thank Dagg. Leisurely stroll down Lambton Quay, a street built for marching down (although the University-Terrace-Beehive route is still the best).

Young Labour turn up wearing John Key masks. I recognise a few of them straight off. Good on them for adding to the limited theatrics. Their antics spark a response in the marchers, who drown out the gatecrashers through necessity. Bump into some guy marching along with an effigy of Winston Peters. Arrive at parliament and a TradeMe of speakers ensues. Fair go to DPF for giving it a go on the mike. Good on Jeanette Fitzsimons for fronting up. You have my respect but still not my vote.

Thursday, lunch with Rick Giles at the Backbencher. Rick is an Almost Disappeared Person and the guy with the Winston effigy. Small world, small march. Off to Wellington Airport to catch a Pacific Blue flight to Auckland. Omfg, they've brought US customs to NZ's laissez-faire air travel. The paranoiacs have taken Joe Bennett far too seriously.

Metal detectors and x-ray machines? Thank Dagg I wasn't wearing my usual belt, the one that gets me spreadeagled at parliament every time. Hasn't anyone told the control freaks that security is an illusion? The best one can hope for is to minimise one's reasons to become a target. Security is therefore an oxymoron.

American security traditions, ripened for decades by the McNamara agenda, have finally burst forth on state departments around the globe. Tasers are the non-lethal stock option du jour. Revenue is soaring! Tasers are the de rigeur non-lethal shock option for cops. During the NZ taser trial, the thing was used 19 times. According to the logic used to justify its use, 19 cop lives were saved due to the taser. What's the Death on the Job rate for cops? Surely it's not 19 a year? N-n-n-n-19? No way.

Taxes may not be rising, inflation may be low, but the price of safety just keeps going up. What's the going rate for a late model taser? How about those goddamned metal detectors and x-ray machines back at the airport terminal purgatory? For my return trip to Auckland, $7.14. Now I paid McDonalds Airways a hundred and something bucks for my flights. $7.14 is a big bite of their margin.

If $7.14 is the price of ensuring that Tame Iti hasn't trained some ninja pilots to take over a 747 and fly it into the Beehive, so be it. However, since this stunt happening is so unbelievably improbable, I strongly resent paying a tuppenny fuck for being treated worse than a towelhead. $7.14 would have bought me a red wine to enjoy on my flight, instead of being heavied by the rubber-glove brigade. Future flying will now be subject to a thirty percent increase in security costs. $9.32 and rising. When will someone say no? I'll second them.

I hadn't been to Auckland since selling up the Shoebox in Wellesley St West back in '04. It was well-timed, before the leaky building clusterfuck really took hold of the body corporates and just before the CBD was so utterly saturated with apartments. Landing at Auckland airport was a doddle. I had forgotten how truly horrible the traffic was.

One hiccupped rendezvous later and we're heading out west, to the Pope of Dope's official residence in the Waitakere Ranges. Two wood pigeons parked up in the bush greet us on arrival. The view is astounding. It's all there, Rangitoto, Sky City (albeit as a prick on the horizon). It's the Auckland I never knew. Wait! What's that sound in the distance? Is it... public transport railway?

Friday day is prep day. Lots of mouths to feed this weekend. Head into town for the 4:20 near Albert Park. Maryjane, the Cannabus is there, up and running after only three years from its inception. After a significant smoke, a crowd heads out on the bus into Auckland Friday night gridlock. I get out while the bus is idling near the Viaduct, heading around the waterfront and across to the North Shore on the ferry.

Head on round to RRB's house, a cigarette's length from the jetty. From there, it's off to the Northcote Tavern, a throwback to the glorious bar and bistro days of my childhood. It's Friday night and there's fuck all people there, for shame. Not trendy enough, eh. RRB and the Northcote's chef share a walking bus connection, spinning a yarn in the garden bar. She cooks up a nice scotch fillet and chips too.

Saturday morning, head out to Prince's Wharf to attend the NORML annual conference on board Te Aroha. It's a good meeting, and my paper on what the latest version of the Electoral Finance Bill means for NORML is well received. Now I'm committed to writing to the Electoral Commission to seek guidance on NORML's response to the EFB.

The AGM is wrapped up quickly, as the party-goers are about to board. It's time for cruising the harbour, relaxation, irie tunes, loads of kai, and the "Show Your Grow" competition (a spin-off from the annual Cannabis Cup). The co-host has provided beer and steaks, as well as other festive amenities. I grab a Steinie and crank up the barbie. Not 200 yards away, a police launch wanders past. It'll pass by discreetly another three or five times during the evening, as bass booms and clouds of smoke diffuse in our wake.

After I've backlogged the buffet for the 70 people on board, I head up to the Auckland's heads in the bowls. After years of tolerating Wellington's bush weed, it was a real pleasure to get to see some fine Auckland skunk again. Aucklanders won't touch bush. It's skunk or nothing. About a dozen entries and there's three outstanding ones. One bud, big as your fist, sits there begging to be scratched and sniffed. I feel like Neil Miller at the Beer Festival, or Jules at Toast Martinborough.

New Zealand is a nation for Epicureans. Our Rieslings are up there with Germany. While our Cab/Merlots have a way to go before we top the Ozzies (Penfold's Grange, Mmmmmm. Sorry Mr Brajkovich!), the Pinots are getting there. Three cheers for Tuatara Pale Ale! Dagg bless that Manuka Honey! Woohoo for Kapiti Foods and Puhoi too! And the lamb... The lamb lies down on Ohakune potato mash and mint jus. New Zealanders are the best growers and seeders of cannabis in the world. We outrank Marrakesh, Amsterdam and Nepal in quality. This is no hashish, dudes. This is the real fluffy thing. Smells sweetish-minty too.

The winner ends up being G. There were many mentions on the night of "hitting the G spot". It's a Northern Lights/White Pearl cross. The dude has been growing hard out for three years and this fine young horticulturalist deserved the win.

The partygoers depart, and the boat straddles the harbour for the night. Sunday is sloth day. Everyone's glad that the conference was done and dusted on Saturday, because it's the Mother of All Stone-overs on Sunday. The clouds burn off early in the day, and the harbour is ablaze in sun.
Farewells in the afternoon. Head off on foot from Prince's Wharf to debrief myself at my bro's apartment in Parnell. The heat coming off the bitumen makes it a stinking hot walk. There's cold beers in the fridge, although Randy is in Tauranga dealing with Family Matters. Refresh, reboot, and up to The Bog, before ferreting back for a kip.

Monday, it's back to reality. Back to Wellington. Normal blogging will resume whenever the fuck.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

For the fun of it

The New York Times pays tribute to the release of the first season of Sesame Street on DVD:

Just don’t bring the children. According to an earnest warning on Volumes 1 and 2, “Sesame Street: Old School” is adults-only: “These early ‘Sesame Street’ episodes are intended for grown-ups, and may not suit the needs of today’s preschool child.”

Say what? At a recent all-ages home screening, a hush fell over the room. “What did they do to us?” asked one Gen-X mother of two, finally. The show rolled, and the sweet trauma came flooding back. What they did to us was hard-core. Man, was that scene rough. The masonry on the dingy brownstone at 123 Sesame Street, where the closeted Ernie and Bert shared a dismal basement apartment, was deteriorating. Cookie Monster was on a fast track to diabetes. Oscar’s depression was untreated. Prozacky Elmo didn’t exist.

Indeed. Back then only Big Bird could see Mr Snuffleupagus. It was a reassurance to kids that direct observation trumps peer pressure every time. It certainly helped me deal with tinnitus. Contrast that with today's pre-chewed pabulum. Jeez, give me another hit of the 70's realism, risk-taking and acceptance:

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Quantum effects in Electoral Finance Bill

I have worked out what has happened to the Electoral Finance Bill. It's been put through some form of particle accelerator. Nothing has been created or destroyed, it's just reappeared elsewhere in a different form. Take, for example, the deleted clause exempting government departments from the effects of the EFB (Section 119AA). The souped-up EFB has much the same effect appear elsewhere, in the definition of who can or can't be a third party. Section 4 (2) (e):

14 Persons eligible to be third party
(2) The following are ineligible to be a third party:
(e) each of the following persons or bodies:
(i) the chief executive (however described) of a
department of State or Crown entity: 20
(ii) a department of State:
(iii) a Crown entity:
(iv) a State enterprise (within the meaning of section
2 of the State-Owned Enterprises Act 1986) or a
Crown-owned company: 25
(v) any other instrument of the Crown

If government departments by definition cannot be third parties, then they are exempted. N'est-ce pas?

Monday, November 19, 2007

Apres aujourd'hui, la deluge

Oh dear. Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. I've looked all through my metaphor bag, but I can't find anything remotely apt to compare with the J&E report on the Electoral Finance Bill. A sprig of parsley added to a dog's breakfast? No. Less sensible and illogic than any religious text ever written? Nope. I give up.

Best thing to do is ignore it. Sure, I'm going to the march on Wednesday, but there's no way in hell I'm going to take heed of whatever responsibilities the Electoral Finance Bill foists on me. Am I going to stick posters around town without putting my home address on them? You betcha. Am I going to register as a third party with the Electoral Commission? Make me. Am I going to push the new and untested legal fictions contained in this Bill just for the hell of it? I'll see you in court.

I won't be alone. There's a whole heap of farmers going to be there too. Flush from the Fonterra money fountain, a resurgent rural sector will be keen to express their views come the election. And they don't give a good god-damned buggery fuck what the Electoral Finance Bill says. Over in the corner will be the grass-roots activists whom the Labour administration has done so well at alienating in recent weeks.

Or maybe not. The Electoral Commission has been charged with overseeing the whole thing; parties, candidates and "third parties". And they have, ummm, 42 days to get their infrastructure in place.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Fry Hard

The correct answer is 248, not 42

According to a free-wheeling surfer dude, the Theory of Everything may lie in an elegant mandala discovered back in 1887:



Garrett Lisi hopes to successfully beat string theory to unifying gravity with electromagnetism, and the strong and weak nuclear forces. In between surfing and mountain climbing, he will set about calculating the masses of 30-odd particles which the E8 pattern (pictured above) says should exist. Can't wait for the Large Hadron Collider to go online, eh.

UPDATE: Here's a YouTube of it working:

Friday, November 16, 2007

Tasers are a cop's best friend

While the shocking snuff video of Canadian Mounites tasering a Polish immigrant to death is doing the rounds, Leeds police are in the gun over tasering a man in a coma back in 2005:

"Mr Gaubert said he was on his way to meet friends when he suffered a hypoglycaemic fit on the bus which left him slumped on his seat clutching his rucksack. Armed police were called to the bus depot in Headingley and when he failed to respond to their challenges he was shot with the Taser. He said as this was happening, another officer was pointing a real gun at his head. He was restrained and eventually came round in the police van."

Thursday, November 15, 2007

How rhetorical is this?



Helen Clark has promised that government departments are not going to cheerlead for them next election. Why then was not only Madeleine Setchell's job with Ministry of the Environment canned, but her replacement was a Labour flunky?



Are all passive-aggressive personalities now terrorists? That would explain the attempt at introducing Anti-Social Behaviour Orders then. Oh, come on... you can't take those transcripts as a serious threat to public safety? Good on the DomPost printing them and all. But seriously, my old man had more guns than the entire Freedom Fighter army, including a semi-automatic .22 fitted with a nightsight. The bunnies never stood a chance.

If I had to pick a winner between wingnut Tame Iti and a squad of stormtrooper Xs, my money's on the Allblackwaters:



Wait! This just in! Police have arrested four Maori men attempting to harness the sun with a flax net. Maybe Tame Iti will prove to be an artist after all.

Now the crayon has dried on the Health Select Committee's report recommending a ban on BZP, how long before the big bangs are banned? And is there anything that the government HASN'T given to the Law Commission to work on? Will Helen Clark inserting the Sim card into the Law Commission deck make any difference to the Misuse of Drugs Act re-write, or will Geoff Palmer put his reputation first? And will Crown Law ever grow a backbone?

Tomorrow is the anticipated date for the J&E committee to report back on the Electoral Finance Bill. DPF reckons that that will provide a six day window to read the latest Rigging Yarn. I have half a mind to wag work and go to this:

Stop the Labour/NZ First/Greens Electoral Finance "Gagging Bill"

What you can do:

Protest March: Auckland this Saturday 17 November from the Auckland Town
Hall at 10.30am (assemble from 10am)

Protest: Wellington next Wednesday, 21 November, for a march on Parliament.

This is to invite you to stand up and be counted.

ACT member John Boscawen is organising marches in Auckland and Wellington
to protest the Labour led Government's attack on democracy.

The Electoral Finance Bill is designed to curb political activity.

Labour and NZ First with help from the Greens and United Future are about to
ram through a law to gag free speech.

This despite vociferous objection from the Human Rights Commission, the Law
Society, Grey Power and concerned citizens from every sector of New Zealand
society.

The plan is to give Labour freedom to say what it likes in election year and
gag everyone else.

Once the Gagging Bill goes through - possibly as soon as next week - it will
be against the law for me to send an email such as this.

That's why the Human Rights Commission talks about a "chilling" impact on
democracy.

That's why this is a Gagging Bill by any other name and must be stopped.

Join the marches

If you want to help contact John@boscawen.co.nz

Friday, November 09, 2007

Great Balls of Fire

Wellington's annual Guy Fawkes display was one of the reasons I came back to live here. It goes off, every year without fail. I saw this year's from my street and the scale was all wrong. The noises were off and the lack of awe amongst most of the neighbours was almost palpable. To really get the feel for it, you have to be down the harbour amongst the throngs of Frank Kitts or Waitangi Parks, before wandering off home in the fug of gunpowder that drifts down towards Newtown.

Ah, the sights! The smells! Takes me back to my first terrorist camp:



Five years old and playing with fire. The Soccer Mums would be furious. If you can't take a pram along to displays of large things that explode, well, they should all be banned, right? And this, on the second anniversary of Rod Donald's death. Rod was a strong believer in the right to have fun with gunpowder, yet the Greens say silent.

It's a very interesting yarn between Kathy Ryan and Police Commissioner Howard Broad, discussing "going to the supermarket." It sort of confirms the grapevine stuff, and raises more questions than it answers. What is clear from Howard Broad's circumlocutions is that the threshold of the Terrorist Suppression Act is too high.

It ain't easy being a cop.

As John Ip confirms in the rejoinder, Howard Broad's comments are very disconcerting comment. Howard Broad wanted to prosecute under a law that doesn't exist. The Terrorist Suppression Act has justifiably high thresholds. It was designed in the usual way of platitudinous mumbo-jumbo UN treaty nonsense, hurriedly and for show only. It's not a working model. To ensure that a threat to life, limb or utilities had to be absolutely imminent, two checks were put in place. Both the Attorney General and Solicitor General had to agree to the charges being laid. Michael Cullen abdicated his responsibilites and left the matter entirely in the hands of the Solicitor General, David Collins QC.

Lacking the name of the supermarket, how to get to the supermarket, and what they were going to buy. That's the threshold the cops couldn't reach, even after simultaneous dawn raids, checkpoints, and numerous breaches of innocent people's dignity, reputation and right not to have automatic weapons pointed at them by balaclavaed amoured cops. All those hundreds of pages of inadmissable evidence or illegal wiretapping, depending on how you look at it.

This "early intervention" guff is the stuff that confirms my wildest fears. This is Margaret-Shields-seeing-skulls-in-rum-advertisements crazy. The Police Commissioner would like to see the threshold lowered so he can pre-emptorarily, unilaterally surveil anybody playing silly buggers in the bush and spouting nonsense about taking over the world. Are they going to tap Helen Clark's mutterings on her next Norwegian Wood holiday?

Between the Idea
And the Reality
Falls the Shadow

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Monday, November 05, 2007

Latest Headlines from the "War on Violence"

While we wait for real details to emerge on the Tuhoe Terrorists, we are left with sheer speculation, rumour, gossip and innuendo to base our conclusions at present. On the whole, it's best to leave that cat in the box a bit longer. What the hell, way it looks so far... A few people did some very stupid things. The cops, pushed too soon once the hunters bumped into something, over-reacted.

There's every chance I'm completely wrong. Perhaps the cops will lay out some heinous plan with a veritable cornucopia of inflammatory, incriminatory evidence. Time will tell. What is clear from Peter Wiliams QC getting involved with the Ruatoki locals, is that the cops had better come up with a phenomenally good reason to do what they did up there. The police wouldn't dream of pulling that shit in Remuera. Would they hunt for a panther by roadblocking, photographing and searching the Parnell People? The ends had better justify the means.

Not that this is a big problem for Helen Clark at present. Failing to secure state funding for political campaigns through the EFB beta version hasn't prevented her from achieving the same thing through the Appropriation (Continuation of Interim Meaning of Funding for Parliamentary Purposes) Bill.

Nor is blaming Treasury as the reason for not having personal tax cuts until election year '08 beyond the pale. Cullen remaining as Finance Minister means that Labour intend to hit big. Cullen is already underselling the tax cuts. Under-promise, over-deliver. Expect to see the first $xxxx income made tax-free and rammed through just before the election. Doing so would cost only slightly more than the interest-free student loan thumbsucker, while bringing NZ into line with Oz's tax regime.

I felt a bit of sympathy for the poor buggers protesting outside the Labour Party conference. Sure, the wild-eyed frenzies were a bit full-on, but good on them trying some amateur dramatics for the cameras. I have organised peaceful political protests before, but the media just aren't interested. Peaceful gatherings where nothing happens just isn't good telly. Guantanamo wannabes and army fatigue guy was at least an attempt to tangify the protest in the televisual aesthetic. Whacking someone with a megaphone on camera is also good telly.

I'm looking forward to the fireworks display in the harbour in just over an hour. Regardless of how crap the day of November the 5th is in Wellington, it always clears up in time for the big bangs. Tonight's goona be a corker. It's not just the main display that grabs me every time, but also the entire city's backyards full of light and sound. Pity the tyrant is threatening to ban the whole gig if we don't behave. Pressure valves are there for a reason. Pity there's no way to tell which way the wind is blowing when you're in the House of Representatives.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Born in the NZ, eh

If one wished to sum up how the Labour government have treated single blue collar males, this is it (click on the image and wait a bit):



If one prefers more words, give this excellent episode of Eye to Eye a squizz. The next election will be won or lost, through act or omission, on this group. Piss us off at your peril.

Movember is coming...

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

The People's Front of Judea

This just in, bail has been revoked for New Zealand's terrorist mastermind, Vicious Dangerous Commando Guy:
"In an unusual move, the Crown lodged an appeal at the High Court in Auckland after the district court this morning granted Jamie Beattie Lockett, 46, of Takanini, in Manukau City, bail."
This whole business seems increasingly unusual. Smells rum, by gum. Molotov cocktails are a good, scary name for bottled petrol. Tell me more about this 'napalm bomb'. Entry-level napalm can be made from polystyrene and petrol. A beanbag on a bonfire is technically a napalm bomb. We're not talking Dr Evil scale terrorism here so far. What with the international attention that is causing untold harm to our country's reputation from all this, the police had better start coughing up some real evidence pronto.

On a completely different subject, here's the People's Front of Judea:

Monday, October 15, 2007

The Day After Tomorrow Will Be a Lovely Day For Sleeping Dogs

I have seen enough guns to last me a lifetime, several in fact. I sometimes wonder if going dawn shooting with the old man before primary school contributed to my deafness, or whether the guns in the house was the source of my life of anxiety. I have see what damage rifles can do. Guns are a coward's weapon. I fail to see the sport in shooting animals with them. There is not an animal alive that can outrun a bullet. Anyone who has to resort to a gun to win an argument doesn't have God or right on their side. All they have is a gun.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Jemima protects the babies from BZP

Jacqui "Ban Dihydrogen Mono-oxide" Dean is determined to go for a trifecta of fuck-ups over the BZP ban. Today, she's Jacqui "Won't someone think of the children" Dean. Toddlers have accidentally swallowed BZP. Therefore if BZP is banned, toddlers will no longer put dubious things into their mouths. Simply brilliant logic. Of course, none of the toddlers who ingested BZP pills died or anything. But they MIGHT have.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Friday, October 05, 2007

Graphic distortion

A few in the Blue spectrum are taking this graph from Rod Deane's site seriously:


While the figures are no doubt entirely correct in the literal sense, the context in which they are used is laughingly misleading.

Remember New Zealand in 1820? Neither do I. Thankfully, Harrison M Wright's "New Zealand 1769-1840: Early Years of Western Contact" is at hand. Pages 23 and 24 enlighten us as to the source of New Zealand's Gross Domestic Product in 1820:

"Kororareka was a Maori settlement in the Bay which was later to become the
source of much contention as the principal rendezvous of visiting whalers and
the whipping boy of missionaries and their supporters...

"Whalers that visited the Bay of Islands anchored at Kororareka, since it was
the most convenient spot, and the number of vessels which did so increased
markedly about 1820...

"The white population at Kororareka apparently fluctuated around one or two
dozen for several years."

The next OECD ranking appears 50 years later, in 1870. By sheer coincidence, 1870 is also when the Otago gold rush had hit its peak.

Next stop is 1913, a quantum leap of 43 years. Refrigerated shipping had been bringing home the bacon for New Zealand around thirty years. From Michael King's History of NZ (pg 279):

"[I]n 1911 the urban population of New Zealand exceeded the rural for the first time... The population of Auckland alone jumped from 51,000 in 1896 to 103,000 by 1911."

The GDP pump of farming provides much the same reason as the next time jump, 37 years later in 1950. The post-war economy is pumping due to NZ farmers being the Allied's market garden during WWII.

The next randomly chosen year is 1973, the year the UK joined the European Union and we lost our beef and lamb buying power. It is the beginning of the end.

27 years later, in 1990, New Zealand has just been restructured to death. SMPs are gone, as are a range of tariffs that hid the true cost of things. Our comparative worth with the rest of the world is back to where it was when we once were whalers.

Apart from that, I pretty much agree with what Dr Deane was on about.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Three STV's and an FPP

Early indications show that if anybody is the winner in this year's local body elections, it's the Apathy Party by a landslide. Mike Moreu nicely sums up the dilemma confronting voters. My voting forms arrived some few weeks ago, as well as a 43-page booklet crammed with candidate profiles of no more than 150 words each. I finally posted it a coupla days ago. As DPF has posted up his preferences, here's who I chose and why:

Mayor

Nick Kelly (complete tosser) - 11
Helene Ritchie (loon) - 10
Bryan Pepperell (undeserved egotist) - 9
Carl Gifford (who?) - 8
John McGrath (twat) - 7
Jack Ruben (loon) - 6
Paul Bailey (who?) - 5
Rob Goulden (reminds me of Jason Hoyte in Gormsby and Outrageous Fortune) - 4
Nick Wang (he's got balls) - 3
Kerry Prendergast (married to Rex) - 2
Ray Ahipene-Mercer (competent) - 1

Western Ward

Fuck all choice here. Maybe I should have had a go after all.

Jack Ruben (loon) -5
Pauline Scott (generic Labour) - 4
John Morrison (poseur) - 3
Jo Coughlan (wild card) - 2
Andy Foster (sane) - 1

Capital and Coast District Health Board

This is the real spanner in the works. Note the numbering below. Even with a BA in politics, I screw up the vote. Utterly pointless exercise. Best tool here is a Dungeons and Dragons dice.

Helene Ritchie (loon) - 21
Coltyn Shaw (OK, you're Maori. Now what?) - 20
Jim Delahunty (no photo) - 19
Trisha Inglis (Kapiti) - 19
Karen Coutts (Labour ticket) - 18
John Cook (Waikanae not Wellington) - 17
Kent Clark (hippy) - 16
Adrian Webster (used the term 'social justice') - 15
Gordon Strachan (Kapiti) - 13
Hayley Wain (I hate Hayley Westernra) - 12
David Chamberlain (can balance a cheque book) - 11
Virginia Hope (Aucklander) - 10
Petra van den Munckhof (cool name) - 9
Felicity McLennan (nurse) - 8
Michael Appleby (I had to) - 7
Judith Aitken (incumbent) - 6
Sandra Patton (seemed clued up) - 5
Peter Roberts (doctor) - 4
Margaret Faulkner (nurse) - 3
Ruth Gottlieb (she's a yoda) - 2
Donald Urquhart-Hay (so dedicated, he worked in Palmy for 5 years) - 1

Wellington Regional Council

Woohoo! Onto the final leg here. No numbers, just five ticks. I hope there's a chocolate fish in it for me after all this work.

Judith Aitken (incumbent)
Bernard Darnton (token Libz vote)
Michael Gibson (it seemed a good idea at the time)
John Gilberthorpe (smart and networked like Neo)
Fran Wilde (the Cake Tin)

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Remain In Tense

Went for a squizz at the aBc competitors in the State Insurance lobby before work today. Very impressed with the amount of entries that wished to turn Government House grounds into a public domain. The kids' 3D models were quite cool too. Go see it.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Free Health Care

The first ever Hearing Expo is on this weekend at the Michael Fowler Centre. Come along if you'd like a free hearing test. I was on queue management yesterday, and was deeply impressed with who and how many turned up. The toddlers, the tweeners, the emos, the hoodies, the suits, the musos, the soccer mums, the receptionists, the crinklies. It was like the whole whanau had turned up. Good on them.

All got a stint with a qualified audiologist and received an audiogram. This could be further interpreted and advice given by even more audiologists. The service normally retails around $80. This weekend IT'S FREE. See you there, y'hear?

Friday, September 28, 2007

aBc Warriors

As Tom at WellUrban has kindly pointed out, the winner of the Intensity futurama for Wellington transport was not me. But it was. Not in the financial sense, but in the corny, syrupy way usually ascribed to Hollywood underdog movies. Nothing is more fun than trying to solve an impossible problem. You never know what you'll discover on the side.

Take, for example, the Throne of Wellington. It's high up near the top of the ridge above Government House. I discovered it one shitty morning when I was procrastinating on going to work. I was backtracking from Kilbirnie, in as near a straight line over Mt Vic towards the Basin Reserve in rain and a strong Nor'Wester head wind.

These days are great, as there's no-one else around and I can pretend I'm Bruno Lawrence in The Quiet Earth. That's the big difference between Orkland and Wellington. Sure, there are nice spots to sit and think up there, but there's two dozen other fucking people around trying to do the same thing. In Wellington, it is easy to be alone.

My shoes were soaked, it was near impossible to roll a smoke, and the spliff had almost worn off. I trudged down, eyes crying from the wind and there it was. The Throne of Wellington. It was a fallen stump hanging out over an expanse of gorse just below the ridge above Government House. Sitting up there, leaning into the wind and looking at over this beautiful land. Two seagulls sat hovering overhead, riding the currents for kicks. Nice.

But back to the competition. The 90-odd entries can be viewed at the State Insurance Building gallery until 5th October. It'll be good for a gander. For the record, I've posted my entry below:


The Link

This plan lifts the airport to city traffic out of commuter and suburban traffic. Doing so allows the smooth and uninterrupted flow of traffic between these two points, while: including an iconic entrance to the city from the new tunnel providing enhanced access to Wellington Hospital.




The Hinge

The new Link overbridge around the Basin Reserve will significantly lighten traffic flow on the ground, allowing vehicular traffic to use only the eastern half of the Basin border. Pedestrian and cycle traffic fits on widened footpaths or dedicated paths on the western side of the Basin, the street becoming a cul de sac for the student hostels and motel based there. The separation of motorised and non-motorized traffic minimises accidents while encouraging alternatives to vehicles.

Five Factors

1. Transport connections

New tunnel dedicated to airport and eastern suburb traffic allows existing Mt Victoria tunnel to become public transport and suburban route. Current bus tunnel becomes dedicated pedestrian and cycleway.

2. Adelaide Road
Medium density (3-4 storey) WCC public housing partly paid by government funding, to gradually replace existing housing stock. Existing footpath includes cycle lane.

3. Basin Reserve

Bypass flyover eliminates clutter, allowing separation of traffic flows at ground level.

4. Government House

Demolished or moved to make way for bypass. Head of State moves to Premier House in Thorndon, Prime Minister to Turnbull House in Parliamentary Precinct. Former Government House grounds become park to offset urban density of Adelaide Road intensification, possibly including allotments for growing vegetables.

5. Memorial Park

Cut and cover bypass tunnel, symbolising a momentary darkness to remember those for whom it is permanent.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

A blurt at the J&E committee

Well, I did my blurt on the Electoral Finance Bill today. I sat in on the select committee from 2 to 4, watching video conference submissions, hearing audio conference submissions of wildly varying sound quality, as well as a handful of old-fashioned in-person submissions. One thing's certain, that there's a lot of concerned citizens out there; 585 written submissions and around a hundred orals. One dude drove down from Napier to give his first ever select committee oral submission in person. The people are pissed off.

Originally, I had planned to walk into parliament with duct tape over my mouth labelled Electoral Finance Bill. I had printed up a sign saying: "Gudday, my name is Will. I'm here for the J&E select committee, Room 4. Can you please tell me where to go? Ta." At the bottom was "Authorised by the Ministry of Freedom" and my home address. Thank Dagg I didn't. I'd have suffocated or hyperventilated or something. Also, David Benson-Pope had turned up. The man has suffered enough and my idea would have sent entirely the wrong message.

The scrum of MPs sat around the table, laptops a go-go. Toshiba is the choice of Parliamentary Services, but there were a few renegades with their own, noticeably Rodney's Vaio. When the strain of craning my brain to listen to the cracklier conference call submissions got too much, I'd wander back out into the crisp sou-easter that prowled the parliamentary forecourt for a smoke. Then back through the X-Ray machine, just to make sure I hadn't suddenly strapped a hammer to my chest while I was out there. It's a bit like those crazy Finnish people who sit in saunas then roll in the snow, but repeated ad nauseam. I don't see the thrill.

If you don't have the right letter on your sticker, Parliament can be a very unfriendly place. Between the public entrance and the select committee rooms, there's nary a drop of refreshments to be had, not so much as a Coke machine. I could have bought a souvenir plate but even that store was shut. Behind the MPs in Room 4, there's this tray of food and drink for their pleasure. Water, coffee, biscuits, fruit platters, sitting like Tantalus. An hour and a half into the proceedings, I'm called up to the chair. I've got five minutes and they're running behind time so please be concise.

A deep breath and... blurt. Third party nonsense bad enough, but the rort in favour of the party is breathtaking. Chief Electoral Officer being responsible for monitoring candidates and third parties, something that hasn't previously been their function. Meantime, the party is monitored by the Electoral Commission. Why are we using the UK and Canadian models, when their level of voter participation is about 20 percent worse than ours? Please pick a number at random between 1 and 158 and I'll rebut. Any questions?

Silence. I remember to start breathing again and realise my mouth has gone dry, like my mouth is stuffed with tampons. Rodney kindly asks a question. Good onya, Rodney. I return to my seat. Already, the L'Esprit de L'Escalier hits. Bugger. Bugger bugger bugger.

The vibe from all this is not good. A hypothetical Supplementary Order Paper was mentioned, talk of redefining not only electoral advertisement, but also third party. The report date for the J&E on the Electoral Finance Bill is set as 25 January 2008, nearly a month into when it is supposed to take effect. Either the regulated period is in for a big shift, or the J&E hearing was just a going-through-the-motions exercise. I fear the latter will prove true.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

We Do What We're Polled

The J&E select committee have been very kind to me, giving a week's notice for my oral submission on the Electoral Finance Bill this Thursday. Some have not been so lucky, having only a day or two's notice. Now the aBc competition is out of the way, I've had a chance to continue researching my Thursday blurt.

Leaving aside all the third party nonsense for one moment, it is interesting what little loopholes are entrenched for existing parties. Take, for example, the definition of an electoral expense. Clause 59 of the Electoral Finance Bill echoes the Electoral Act's interpretation for candidates and parties:
Election expenses does not include the cost of any of the following:
(ii) the conduct of any survey or public opinion poll
I scrutineered for the Labour party in '87 before I was old enough to vote. I have used party databases from Labour, National and Act. Suffice it to say I have some inkling of what this exemption means. While the EFB wants to define everything except breathing as an election advertisement, parties are free to throw unlimited funds into polling of any description.

Databases of voter preferences are like gold to parties. They are more effective at niching one's message than the scatter shot approach of pamphleteering. As The Century of Self documentary demonstrates, if one can focus group the swinging voters and find something to yank their chains, the election is yours. Push-polling is not an election expense. Yeah Right. Kill the Bill.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Supercops!

Welcome to the NZFBI. Now bend over.

Serious fraud is no longer considered that serious. There is no longer a need to have a dedicated white collar unit to help ensure the NZ business environment is kept clear of fraud. There are more important things than ensuring NZ's business environment remains under observation. Besides, white collar is so last century.

The new
Organised Crime Agency (OCA) will combine the very best elements of CSI and, probably X-Files, if the new unit's remit is anything to go by:
“The very nature of organised crime means that it is dynamic and moves quickly between activities and levels,” she said. “Organised crime spans the width of the criminal activity spectrum.

“This activity includes cyber crime, identity theft and identity fraud, money laundering, extortion, blackmail, fraud and drug manufacturing, distribution and trafficking. Organised crime can also encompass paedophilia networks and politically motivated criminal activity.”
So, fraud has been diluted into a search for kiddy-fiddlers, BZP-runners and " ‘outlaw motorcycle’ groups" as well. Tim Selwyn, step away from the axe.

What special powers will this unit have?
"The creation of cross-agency strategic and tactical intelligence collection and assessment, consistent with the Organised Crime Strategy. This could include the provision of watch lists and standardisation of intelligence storage and dissemination."
The OCA will have their fingers in a number of pies including the GCSB and IRD. In short, the OCA is a government body of unprecedented power. What oversight will ensure that these powers are not abused? Where's the kryptonite?
"The Officials Committee on Domestic and External Security Coordination (ODESC), which includes representatives from the wider Government community, will provide strategic oversight, coordination and advice to support the OCA’s management and operations.

“The Independent Police Conduct Authority will also have oversight of the OCA in the same way it has oversight of NZ Police. The recently-completed Law Commission report on Search and Surveillance Powers will provide the framework for assigning any such powers to the OCA.”
ODESC is:
"Chief Executives from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the Defence Force, Ministry of Defence and NZSIS, GCSB, NZ Police, Ministry of Civil Defence & Emergency Management, Treasury and others as and when necessary. The Chief Executive of DPMC (Maarten Wevers) chairs the group."
Seems like a hell of a lot of people taking drug running way too seriously. And where are the judges and lawyers to represent the people versus the state?

The Independent Police Conduct Authority is a new name for the old boys from the Police Complaints Authority. Here's the punchline:
"[T]he Authority [can] have up to five members. The expanded membership will allow wider representation and strengthen confidence in its independence."

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Sit and fart in the duck

An hilarious phonetic sub-titling of a Flemish children's TV song:



Particularly hilarious as not only am I fourth-generation Flemish, but also it gives a good idea what it's like for a half-deaf listening to a conversation (We don't hear what you say. We hear a sum over dictionaries relating to all similar vocal tones).

Hat Tip BoingBoing.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Rearranging the china cabinet

Spring is upon us and Helen Clark is preparing to dust out her executive. DPF has done a good job making recommendations. Not bad for a Nat! However, armed with the trusty transTasman Guide to MPs 2006, there a few points I'd like to add:

Cullen - Loses Finance, gets Health. Also throw him Economic Development to utilise the knowledge gleaned from Finance.

Goff - Finance, obviously.

Maharey - Demote but keep in cabinet. Education is going to get hammered between now and the election, and the wounded Maharey is on his way out to Massey pastures. Education needs someone to give a shit.

King - the old man said that while Annette was competent enough, she would never amount to very much. King has proven him wrong. Give her Education.

Mallard - Deserves to be sin-binned for a while. He should lose Economic Development. Give him Corrections instead. The man needs to focus his finite talents. Let him be grateful for keeping the rest of his portfolios, and hope for a carrot if Labour wins the election.

Hodgson - Hmmm... tricky... DPF says Social Development. Good call.

Cunliffe - Give him Trade and Defence.

O'Connor - His latest gaffe more of a "D'Oh!" than a sackable offence. If it's a small world for a Nat's partner, it's a small world for a private secretary's hubby too. Stays in cabinet but out of Corrections.

Cosgrove - Give him more, but what? DPF says Justice, I say Immigration. Why not both?

Parker - Attorney General. Again. Maybe Economic Development if Cullen is preoccupied.

Dyson - In spite of a big of some comments received that she is useless, I have gut feeling that she could do more with more. Local Government maybe?

Dalziel - Same as Dyson. Civil Defence? Maybe throw an Associate Minister of something in there too.

Mahuta - Give her Environment and Conservation.

Laban - Big mana for the Mana MP. Give her Pacific Affairs. Housing too?

Duynhoven - What to do with Dutch Harry? Would he be missed?

Burton & Barker - If they were in Star Trek, they would be wearing red vests.

Tizard - Why is she still in cabinet? Clark needs someone to pass the ammo, not hold her handbag.

Carter - Another waste of space. Has had plenty of chances but a non-performer.

So, four or five gaps in the executive to fill. Who deserves a seat at the table?

Barnett - Now Tim isn't running for Christchurch local government, does he want something more or is he happy being Senior Whip?

Hughes - As transTasman observes, he is nearly old enough for promotion. That was last year. Give him something unfuck-upable like Transport Safety to get his trainer wheels.

Chauvel - DPF is taking the piss. From what I observe, Charles has got it. He just hasn't earned it yet. Still, if Tizard can be a minister, it's an insult not to throw Chauvel a bone. Minister of Courts, Law Commission and Associate Justice.

Jones - Shane has a fine balancing act ahead. Avoid the Curse of JT on one hand, but keep himself busy on the other. If he can assure genuine objectivity, give him Treaty Negotiations. Dagg knows, the position has been missing someone with balls for a long time.

Street - Give Maryan Women's Affairs. It's right up her alley. Maybe Ethnic Affairs too.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Pissing on the electorate fence

Below is a draft of my submission for the EFB:

Summary

Kill this Bill. Throw this poorly Sellotaped, arrogantly presented, viciously swift, merciless and dangerous Bill in the rubbish and start again. Nail down the worst excesses of electoral abuse that occurred last election, the ones which necessitated retrospective legislation to excuse. For any more radical ideas, go the hustings with them and seek a mandate from the people.

Main Points


  1. Where did this Bill come from? Certainly not the public. The closest this Bill came to public engagement was at the Electoral Symposium held in June at Victoria University, where various party hacks talked at the crowd. Consultation has been conducted under a cone of silence between support parties. Parliament does not have a mandate to propose any regulatory regime on alleged 'third parties'. The public have not demanded it.
  2. The public response to retrospective legislation over election spending has been much less ethereal. The public understand that UnitedFuture and New Zealand First have outstanding debts to the taxpayer even after the rules were temporally re-written, and that these two parties support this doggerel Bill. The public will react accordingly at the next election.
  3. The academics have not demanded this Bill. The Electoral Commission report to the Justice and Electoral Committee on the 2005 election only mentions third parties in passing, and only as a radical option once political parties submit to extensive disclosure requirements and limits on donations. Lacking any check and balance on the political parties, the Electoral Finance Bill cannot justify its draconian stifling of non-party political expression. Any Bill that so radically alters the democratic landscape should be led by open, transparent and wide consultation, explanation and debate, followed by a mandate to ensure legitimacy.
  4. The definition of 'election advertisement' is way too nebulous to be taken seriously. Such a definition is so unenforceable, it begs to be ignored.
  5. While the Electoral Finance Bill creates a severe and compliance-heavy regime for 'third parties' to follow, the rules on parties and candidates remain largely status quo. If anything, this Bill gives more loopholes for parties to exploit, even as it stands on the throat of public expression. The incumbent party on the government benches are particularly well-placed, as absolutely no controls are placed on government advertising.
  6. The course is weighed heavily in favour of parties for anonymous donations as well. While $20,000 is the laundry limit for parties, 'third parties' are limited to a puny $500. I believe that this should be turned around. $500 limit for party and candidate anonymous donations, $20,000 for 'third parties'.
  7. 'Third party' financial agents are solely authorised and responsible for any alleged 'election advertisement'. Party activity, on the other hand, may be authorised by the financial agent or "the party" Section 80(a)(i). The party is authorised but the party is not responsible. One more bad law in favour of the party.
  8. The notion that one third of our lives are to be considered a "regulated period" of speech is a repugnant thing. If any part of the EFB crystallises the wrong, wrong, wrongness of this whole Bill, it is this. While three months is the standard unit of time to accord an electoral period, and is used in the case of by-elections in this Bill, the last four weeks is the real season. Until election day is set in legislation, at not at the whim of the incumbent, leave it alone.
  9. As former Speaker Doug Kidd said at the Electoral Symposium: "Trust the People."

Conclusion

I strongly and respectfully advise the Justice and Electoral Committee to recommend to Parliament that this Bill not proceed. Thank you.

Ninety-one Non-Blondes

500 Years of Female Portraits in Western Art, brought to you by onegoodmove. Redheads feature prominently.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Return of The Panda

When I was eight, I was playing silly buggers up in Tauranga. I tripped on my Superman cape, fell off the porch and broke my arm. The old man comes along and, once the tears have subsided a bit, asks me what I want him to do. He explains that we can do nothing. The pain will linger for a while, a big bruise will come up and eventually the arm will mend itself. It won't be exactly how it was, and many years from now it may play up again.

Or, he could take me to the hospital. People who have a lot of experience in fixing broken bones could make the pain go away. They could look inside my arm with a machine, and set the arm in plaster for a few weeks so the bone mends as best as possible. I asked Dad to take me to the hospital and I got plastered.

Mike Moore has some experience in recognising when something has snapped in the Labour administration. Fortunately, he is at a safe distance, ensconced on an Aussie campus that puts Victoria University to shame. Interested and disinterested at once, he can write his truth with impunity. Moore is always a Labour man. He cares what happens to it.

Labour could limp along to the election, sit bruised in opposition for years, and have their broken tactics flung back at them when we need their credibility the most. Listen to the professionals, guys. And never pick a fight with The Panda.

Monday, September 03, 2007

The grass is cheaper than the tobacco?

Health wonks are looking at raising the price of tobacco to $25 a packet withing 10 years, according to a Medical Association seminar on tobacco taxation later today. While making cannabis cost-effective in comparison, the wonks haven't calculated in the dramatic increase in robberies that will result from such an extortionate price increase. I suppose the doctors would prefer people to be addicted to anti-depressants instead of the evil tobacco.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Man Of Our Times

Let's face it, Lange was a clown. Sometimes this was good. His showmanship and timing made the post-cabinet press conferences the best show in town for journalists. Sometimes this was bad. His need to be everybody's friend meant conflicts were resolved poorly. The Buchanan visit was an early example. Above all, Lange's love of the limelight was very useful. The clown made the perfect diversion. Cabinet kept Lange busy with speaking engagements, high media visibility stuff. This left the executive collective to concentrate on running government.

It worked for a while. The nuclear-free issue provided Lange with a subject he could sink his wit into, and an audience ready to listen. For two years, everything was sweet. While Lange chugged away abusing American Jesus Freaks with non sequiturs, consultation papers flew in and out of the Beehive. Laws were passed, things got done.

Tragedy struck in 1985, when David Lange's brain died. Joe Walding, the British High Commissioner, has passed on. Lacking Joe's sage counsel, Lange had nowhere to turn. He had alienated the Left bloc MPs, couldn't keep up with the economic jargon of those on the Right.
Lange turned to Margaret Pope and, as everyone knows, it went downhill from there. The clown wanted to be taken seriously.

So what's all this got to do with the price of iPods? Two things last week sparked a thought. Mike Moore's guerrilla noun attack on Clark for one. Muldoon! Octopus! Fridge magnet! Although Helen Clark is not Muldoon, she may share his some of his fate. Surrounded by a fearful, strung out, burnt-out caucus. The Electoral Finance Act (Clause 13o) will come into effect if writ day is after 1st March 2008, thereby leaving a snap election a distinct strategy to minimise the Labour party's electoral rout. All one has to do is wait for a Marilyn Waring to turn up.

Helen Clark may have also done her job too well. Having successfully killed off most of the Right wing of the Labour party, she may very well be guaranteeing her party a very long time on the opposition benches until a new equilibrium comes along.

And secondly, Colin James' quiet insistence on Key's stance on a New Zealand Head of State:

Key is of the post-independence generation. His generation takes independence as an unremarkable given.

Key's generation, even if not Key himself, is more culturally Pacific than Clark's but also more confidently able to reconnect with the British/European side of its heritage after the necessary distancing during the independence decades. Its members are more educated than the independence generation and more footloose, especially to bigger outlier Australia outside the front door.

Those who choose to stay here still live in an outlier country, as have all generations going back 10 centuries, and globalisation of capital, money and people, if anything, accentuates that outlier quality. And symbols of colony linger. Clark's generation did belatedly repatriate the highest court four years ago but it has bequeathed to Key's generation an English Queen as head of state, a flag with Britain's flag on it, a name that ties us to a flat bit of northern Europe and a national anthem that prays for God to save us instead of standing tall on our own feet. We are still a wingless, flightless bird.

How will Key the returned expatriate, still playing catchup to some of the cultural changes, deal with all that? His external policy essentially mimics Clark's, with some fine-tuning. Some in his party are plotting legislation to disestablish the monarchy on Queen Elizabeth's death. There are attempts in his party at new thinking on the aspirations of iwi and hapu to bring the two indigenisations into synch.

The thought is this: If National are looking for a populist issue on par with Lange's anti-nuclear stance, Key could do far worse than outbid Labour in the National Identity stakes and seek a Kiwi Head of State. Sure, it's not as sexy as No Nukes, but try opposing the policy. The Greens would go for it. Whatever monarchists still lurk in the shrubbery can bugger off to NZ First, thereby throwing Winston Peters a bone and giving National another minor party to talk to after the election.

But why wait for QEII to die? Surely there'd be more to gain by formalising an amicable split between Her Royal Highness and this outlier nation? Can someone please get hold of Simon Walker and put some feelers out. Otherwise we'll be sharing the peace pipe with Charles and how would that look?

Friday, August 31, 2007

One card to rule them all?

Brian Rudman has had a bloody good idea. It's called user-pays. But why stop at an Auckland Card? There are so many possibilities:

Devonport Card - Shaped like a wine tasting glass. Discounts on chardonnay.
Parnell Card - Optional razor blade for cutting up fine powders.
Manukau Card - Discounts on solvents & aerosol paints.
New Lynn Card - Free dozen Lion Red with every Lion Red pallet purchased (Limit 6 dozen).
Otara Card - Converts into emergency back-up dialysis machine/ colostomy bag /pacemaker/ liposuction pump.
Remuera Card - discounts on blue hair dye, Home & Garden subscriptions; rebate on ports and sherries.
Piha card - One free taxi fare per year to any Auckland address.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

The KGB Ball

It's all go in the capital right now. Here am I bitching and moaning about not hearing JRS speak, when I'm off the the annual KGB Ball at the Overseas Terminal tonight. $1050 cheaper and it's all good. Haven't been back to the old OT since I worked at Si Ristorante back in the 90's. Should be interesting. See you on the balcony.

JRS on bFM

Mikey had a good yak with John Ralston Saul the other day. Discussion on the obligations of humanity, otherwise known as citizenship and culture. Niiice!

Bitchfight at NatRad

Limited thermonuclear weapons were deployed yesterday afternoon on NatRad. Dick Griffin and Chris Trotter joined Jim Mora. Then Jim called Mike Moore. One of the best episodes ever.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Knives Out

Mike Moore has thrown a Molotov cocktail in amongst the pigeons. Oh, to be the tea lady in the Labour caucus room right now. This looks like it could get very nasty. Good. Politics is supposed to be a blood sport. While Audrey Young ponders what rationale Mike Moore had for declaring war on his old party (was it the clumsy attacks on Key, was it on behalf of an old mate?), it's pretty clear what the catalyst for this swipe at Helen Clark is. The Electoral Finance Bill.

Although it's difficult to pinpoint exactly when the Labour administration began diverging from the public good per se, the Electoral Finance Bill conclusively demonstrated how far gone wrong it all is. Appropriate words to describe how mind-gawpingly bad this self-serving slice of shite is is a challenge. I had to call in the professionals. The day the Law Commission released its comprehensive trashing of the Police Search & Surveillance practices, I sent this off to the Commission:
Gudday,

Good on the Law Commission for its constructive criticism of the police search and surveillance laws. Will the Law Commission be releasing a public statement on its position on the Electoral Finance Bill? Due to its constitutional ramifications and severe impact on the Bill of Rights Act, it is in the public interest for the Law Commission to form a view on the issue. If the police laws can be described as a mess, I'd be interested to see what metaphors Sir Geoff can come up with for this Bill.

Cheers,

Will de Cleene
A week later, this pops in Tuesday last week:
Will De Cleene

Thank you for your endorsement of our recent comments on the need to reform search and surveillance powers. Our comments on this followed release of a very substantial Law Commission report (NZLC R97) on the topic, which is available on our website, www.lawcom.govt.nz

The Commission's principal work is on major law reform projects, such as the search and surveillance one, and we do not normally comment on Bills introduced to Parliament. I note that the Crown Law Bill of Rights vet of the Electoral Finance Bill can be found on the Ministry of Justice website.

Law Commission staff provide a template report on all new Government legislation for the Legislation Advisory Committee (LAC) based on the LAC Guidelines. These relate to technical legislative standards rather than the policy or political content of new legislation. LAC may choose to take any matters further.

Thank you for your cheerful message.

Margaret Thompson
Special Projects Adviser
By Friday, Sir Geoff had been roped in to sacrifice his reputation for this godawful Bill. Or had he? I credit the man with enough intelligence to stand well clear of this craptacular Bill. I like to think I did my part in the whole thing.

The Crown Law Bill of Rights vet thing is cunningly neutral, not even a link. This is probably the same Crown Law Office that would see no Bill of Rights issues if a Bill to prevent Americans from emigrating to NZ whisked past their rubber stamp.

So, I am glad that Mike Moore has joined Michael Bassett and others to give this Labour administration a few well-deserved slaps across the face. I am a Labour man born and bred, but I cannot abide the willful destruction of so many hard-earned footholds on this land just to preserve the power of this Labour Government.

The choice open for Labour is to lose graciously or lose badly. Everything spewing out of the Beehive points to the lose badly path. Cullen's mouthing off over suspending monetary policy points to a complete disregard of common sense. The Finance Minister, like the Reserve Bank Governor, is supposed to smooth the waters of economic management, not jitter the fuck out of the currency markets. We've got enough external shocks to cope with without having a malicious clusterfuck of a Finance Minister spooking the horses.

Labour's attempted strategy to smear Key has been obvious and clumsy. And, in the case of the Air NZ Aussie troop transporter debacle, bordered on self-mutilation. You wanna get personal? Sure, we'll get personal. Know this, Jim Anderton. I will dance on your grave. See? It's easy. But this is what Oppositions do, not Governments. Govern, Labour, govern!