When it comes to carelessness in the law-and-order domain, there’s nothing quite like a new law – or is there?

We wonder if Police Minister Stuart Nash has consulted with Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis on what to do about egregious laxities in our law and order system.  They could discuss the merits of new legislation somehow preventing flawed decisions – or carelessness – by the people charged with catching criminals and with safeguarding the public when the baddies have been banged up.

One incident involved prison authorities allowing the man accused of killing 51 people in the Christchurch terrorist attack writing to members of a far-right message board from prison.

The second involved the theft of pistols from a police car in Southland, resulting in Southern police being ordered to stay armed during a hunt for a fellow who – police claim – rammed two police cars, then stole their guns.

Two police Glock pistols were taken but – hey, here’s the good news, folks – two spare magazines were left behind, police said. Continue reading “When it comes to carelessness in the law-and-order domain, there’s nothing quite like a new law – or is there?”

This Internal Affairs service dishes up a rich swill for the nation’s troughers

We thank Racing Minister Winston Peters for steering us to the Community Matters website.

He did this at the end of his announcement that 2019/20 applications for funding to improve racecourse safety are now open.

Further information (he advised) is available from http://www.communitymatters.govt.nz.

We went there and – wow.  We found enough troughs to keep Landcorp’s stock well nourished for the next year or so.

Community Matters, tucked inside the Internal Affairs Department, doesn’t seem to have much to do beyond giving money to the people it deems worthy.

Under “key dates“, we are advised the second 2019 Lottery Environment and Heritage funding round closes on Wednesday August 7; the second 2019 Chinese Poll Tax Heritage Fund funding round opens on Wednesday August 14; and the 2019 Ethnic Communities Development funding round opens on Wednesday August 14.

Some grants administered by Community Operations are open for requests all year round at any time.  These funds do not have opening or closing dates.

These are –  Continue reading “This Internal Affairs service dishes up a rich swill for the nation’s troughers”

Amidst howls of “racism”, protesters demand an agency boss’s resignation because – begorrah – she is Irish

The Hands Off Our Tamariki Network has an admirable ring to its name. Here’s hoping everybody gets the message because if whanau members kept their hands off their tamaraki … well, there would be no need for a state agency to intervene and get its hands on the victims of domestic violence.

The reasons why the Oranga Tamariki agency becomes involved in caring for children has been somewhat downplayed by speakers at protest meetings who demand the state leave their mokopuna alone and insist Māori be the ones caring for their children.

Yet while they call for the state to stay away when Maori children are involved, paradoxically they want the government to do something: Continue reading “Amidst howls of “racism”, protesters demand an agency boss’s resignation because – begorrah – she is Irish”

What’s up, doc? Oh, a sharp difference of opinion on legislation to help the terminally ill

Deep divisions in the medical community have become apparent as David Seymour’s End of Life Choice Bill is about to return to Parliament – on Wednesday next week – for what promises to be a tortuous clause-by-clause third reading debate.

A group of doctors who support the Bill – which would allow the terminally ill to get  medical assistance to end their suffering – this week accused the New Zealand Medical Association of ignoring international evidence on the issue in favour of “conservative cultural and personal beliefs”.

In a letter to NZMA chair Dr Kate Baddock, the group accused the six-member NZMA board, which opposed the Bill in submissions to the justice select committee, of ignoring international “disciplined, rational, evidence-based scientific medicine” on the issue.

“As such you and the board could be accused of being no more advanced than the ‘anti-vaxers’ or the ‘anti-1080 lobby’, whose beliefs cannot be impinged upon by science, fact or rational thinking,” the letter said.

It was signed by Dr Miles Williams, cardiologist, of Hastings, and 18 other practising and retired doctors. Continue reading “What’s up, doc? Oh, a sharp difference of opinion on legislation to help the terminally ill”

Rebalancing of transmission charges is reckoned to generate $2.7bn benefit to consumers over 30 years

A  reform  to  the electricity  transmission  pricing system helping to stabilise  prices  to  electricity  consumers — and reducing  charges  to  major  industrial users in the South  Island  like  the  Bluff aluminium  smelter —  has been  put  forward  by the  Electricity  Authority.

The reform  has been  kicked  around  since  2009,  resisted  by  powerful vested interests,  and   yet  is  vital to  get fairer  prices across the country.

The new  system is  estimated  to  yield  a net benefit of about $2.7bn over the next 30 years through lower transmission and generation costs.  Even so,  there  are bound to be  screams of   outrage  from  Auckland  and  Northland,  although the  Electricity  Authority  puts a   figure of  $21 a year on an average residential bill in those regions.

The  problem  with the  current  pricing methodology under which the grid operator Transpower operates is that the current peak charge sends the wrong price signals. With a more targeted and accurate way to signal grid congestion, the Electricity  Authority estimates peak prices would be on average 38% lower over 30 years than they are now. Continue reading “Rebalancing of transmission charges is reckoned to generate $2.7bn benefit to consumers over 30 years”

Visual news: Minister prepares a sign-language statement to trumpet announcement about help for the hearing-impaired

The Ardern government – focused on promoting wellbeing and diversity – is obviously keen to ensure the beneficiaries of its spending decisions are not left oblivious to what it is doing for them.

Associate Education Minister Tracey Martin yesterday made one of the spending announcements that inevitably trigger the Point of Order Trough Monitor (which is programmed to alert us to government spending decisions but not to make value judgements about the worthiness of  those decisions).

In this case, the announcement related to increased funding of $9.9 million over the next four years to benefit children and young people who are deaf or hard of hearing.

To ensure the target audience was informed of what has been decided, the press statement emerged from the Minister’s office in two forms.
Continue reading “Visual news: Minister prepares a sign-language statement to trumpet announcement about help for the hearing-impaired”

No, Peters won’t come home with an FTA – but high-ranking Americans have been listening to him

Foreign Minister Winston Peters is heading home after his Washington DC visit where, according to officials, virtually every door was opened for him. The visit also confirms how much the US is listening to NZ’s independent voice in Pacific and Asian affairs.  The prospects for a free trade agreement are improving.

Vice-President Mike Pence went out of his way to see Peters again.  Peters also held discussions with President Trump’s chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, at the ministerial conference to advance religious freedom,  and with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, National Security Adviser John Bolton, Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt and two influential senators, Cory Gardner who chairs a sub-committee on East Asia and Pacific and the international cyber security policy, and Ed Markey on the foreign relations committee.

A few years back  NZ’s foreign minister would have been lucky to meet numbers three of four in each agency.

This is a busy time in Washington DC ahead of the August summer break but senior figures in the Trump administration cleared their desks to see Peters.  His meeting with Pence had not been signalled before Peters  left  NZ  on Monday but Peters  has succeeded in  building a  close  relationship with him,  first  at  the APEC summit in Papua  New Guinea  in  November and subsequently  on a visit to  Washington, where Peters  pressed  the case  for a  FTA.  They met for a  third time  on this visit.

All the  high-ranking   members of  the Trump  camp  were keen to hear his perspectives on Asia-Pacific developments at a time when when the region is morphing into a bi-polar system – the US versus China.

Washington has noticed how NZ has recast its previous infatuation with Beijing. This shift was driven by Peters’ speech last November, when he called for a more muscular approach to the Pacific.

Encouraged by Peters, MFAT has drilled down into the essence of the Trump administration’s foreign and trade policy (setting to one side the daily twittering eructations).

According to some long-term Washington watchers, this suggests NZ is better placed than at any time to have its voice heard in the US capital.

PM Jacinda Adern’s sharp criticism of the president following his “go home” taunts certainly registered in the US capital.  But it was offset by the praise which Christchurch mosque attack survivor Farid Ahmed heaped on the president’s leadership during a surprise visit to the Oval Office.

In  a  speech Peters gave  at  the  Centre  of  Strategic and  International Studies, he  underlined   how  the   US’ limited engagement in  trade  agreements  in the Indo-Pacific  “is of  real concern to  NZ”.

He outlined the  multilateral  trade agreements of the  10 Asean  nations and the  CPTPP pact.

The  upshot is that those countries which have engaged in this manner, they are  able to move goods, services and investments across each other’s  borders  with lower  costs and much more business certainty.

“And the converse is also true — for those   countries not  participating, they are by  definition becoming less  competitive   relative to  those countries  who are progressively  removing  barriers  to  trade and  economic  activity”.

He  said  most countries in Asia  have been actively  negotiating trade deals with China, a country which has recorded  staggering  economic growth.   This is one obvious  symbol of the greater trade engagement  across  Asia, whereas the US  in the past 20 years has negotiated only  three FTAs  which  represented  just  12%  of GDP.

While  US exports worldwide  have grown by 5.3% on average since  1990, the share of  US exports to NZ has fallen from  18%  to  10%.