Gang patches banned by Rodney Hide

The law banning gang insignia in Wanganui has been passed. It won’t do any good, and is a major breach of personal freedom.

Just so you don’t think the liberals are all against it and the conservatives are all for it as the Herald may imply, I’ll quote Family Party leader Richard Lewis (former South Auckland police sergeant):

“Banning gang patches will only strengthen the sense of victimisation that unites gang members and creates appeal towards gang life. … Gangs have outlasted Governments and Police Commissioners. It’s naive to think banning their colours will make any discernable difference to what gangs do.” (link)
“Banning patches will help gangs take their business of drug dealing further underground.” (link)

Who supported this disgraceful law:
National
Peter Dunne (United Future)
Rodney Hide, Peter Garrett, John Boscawen (ACT)

Who opposed it:
Labour
Green
Maori
Sir Roger Douglas, Heather Roy (ACT)

Most of the votes were predictable:
National supported it to pretend they are doing something.
Dunne supported it to keep in their good books, and he probably likes banning stuff.
Labour opposed it because National supported it.
The Greens opposed it because they want to ban or control anything that moves unless it is offensive, then they pretend to be in favour of personal freedom as a smokescreen so you don’t notice all the bans.

It is the Maori party, Douglas and Roy that have truly stood up for freedom and common-sense today. Hide, Garrett and Boscawen could have, but chose not to.

It is good to see ACT’s open vote policy meaning people can choose to go against the party leader when he goes against the personal freedoms he apparantly stood for before the election. But it is disappointing that three ACT MPs chose to inflict this disgraceful law on New Zealand.

A sad day for New Zealand, and a sad day for ACT.

AROUND THE BLOGS:
Andy Moore looks at what Rodney Hide said on this in the past, and his massive U-turn now.
Bernard Darnton discusses the principles of the law, a classic post including:
“Backers of the law claim that it’s necessary to crack down on gang members and that they need to be cracked down on because they’re always breaking stuff and hurting people. If that was true you wouldn’t need a law against leather jackets, you could just arrest all these gangsters under the Prohibition of Breaking Stuff (and Hurting People) Act.”

Plastic bag tax

National’s resident greenie, Dr Nick Smith, is considering a tax on plastic bags because, in his personal opinion, “New Zealanders were over-using plastic shopping bags”. We’ve lived in Ireland with such a tax, so here is a brief summary of the good and the bad:

The Good:

  • Reusable bags don’t break. They are much nicer to use than disposable ones.

The Bad:

  • You use disposable plastic bags for all sorts of things – lining rubbish bins for example. When you don’t get them from the supermarket you are forever running out of them, and have to buy plastic bin liners – defeating the environmental purpose of the tax.
  • Reusable bags are bulky.
  • You often forget to take enough reusable bags with you, and have to either buy more reusable bags or disposable ones. So in practice you waste money one way or another.
  • Most reusable bags are plastic. It must take a lot of resources to make one, so you would have to replace a large number of disposables with one reusable to make it worthwhile. In practice they only have a limited life before they get lost or have something disgusting spilt through them, so you don’t actually replace as many disposables as you would expect with each reusable bag. The environmental benefit is therefore questionable.
  • The main winners are the supermarkets. They sell more reusable bags (with their own logos on). They sell plastic bin liners as people aren’t recycling disposable plastic bags as bin liners. And in Dr Smith’s plan, they might even get the plastic bag levy itself. Expect the supermarkets to support this plan, but not for environmental reasons.

So I can only think of one advantage – reusable bags are strong and good to use. There is nothing to stop you using reusable bags now for this reason, and many people already do (for example MacDoctor).

It is highly debatable whether there is any environmental benefit from this whatsoever. Plastic bags are a minute fraction of NZ’s waste (0.2% according to the Dominion Post), much of which will currently be recycled supermarket bags containing rubbish. Most of these will be replaced by new plastic bin liners if this law goes through – in other words, there will be less recycling, and plastic bags will still be about the same amount of NZ’s waste, just more expensive.

Fortunately we have a far more sensible Prime Minister:

Mr Key said there was no way he was going to support a charge that was in effect a tax going into the coffers of supermarkets. “My preference is to find a voluntary and industry-led solution,” he said.”I’ve made that very clear to the minister.”

Asked whether he would preferred to have known in advance about both issues, he replied: “I think it would be more useful if I found out about things before I read about them in the newspaper.”

Good on you Mr Key!

Other comments around the blogs:
MacDoctor: Fantastic Plastic
Madeleine: Blue is the New Green: National’s Bag Tax
Homepaddock: Bin that idea, Nick
Not PC: Nanny Nick taxes bags
Whale Oil: More on Bags

Family First wants more regulation – again

I generally agree with Family First on most issues. But Bob McCoskrie does seem to like regulation too much sometimes in my mind. After calling for more bureaucratic hoops to jump through before you can put up a billboard, he is now criticising the Government’s plan to allow workers to choose whether to have their fourth week of annual leave or get a cash bonus instead.

Family First’s press release states:

Family First NZ says that cash payment provisions on the 4 week of annual leave proposed by the government will harm family time as the temptation to have immediate cash will be too great to resist for some families.

Sounds reasonable, but what does he actually identify as the real problem:

“Poll after poll has shown that both parents and children want to spend more time together doing family things like picnics and holidays together. However, this is becoming increasingly difficult as the retail industry is required to work almost every day of the year, and other industries expand to six and even seven days per week.” …

According to the International Labour Organisation (ILO) report, New Zealanders work longer than any other nationality, apart from the Japanese. 21% of NZ workers work more than 50 hours a week. In most EU countries the number of people working 50 hours or more per work remains well under 10%. Just over 1% workers in the Netherlands work longer hours, while only 6% in Greece and Ireland do so. In Australian and American the rate is 20%.

If the big problem is number of days worked per week, and hours per day, how do statutory holidays affect this?

If you assume the same amount of work still has to be done, people will just have to work harder every other week, so will have less time to spend with their children for most of the year. Frankly, I’d prefer having a few extra hours with my son each week than getting one extra week’s holiday to try and make up for the time I missed with him during the year.

But that should be my own choice. This is a non-issue.

There are very important things that Family First does point out – this week in their email (which you can sign up for here) we have the smacking issue reigniting, informed choice on vaccinations, the EU banning the use of “Miss” and “Mrs”, and other interesting stuff. Family First is a great lobby group, if you aren’t signed up for their emails yet do it today.

I just sometimes wish they’d pick their battles more carefully.

Helen Clark abandoning voters

As I predicted the day after the election last year, Helen Clark is abandoning all the people who wanted her as their MP for Mt Albert, because she didn’t win the election.

When on the campaign trail last year I met many Labour voters who voted that way specifically because they liked Helen Clark. She is a very popular politician, although I may disagree with her policies. I personally feel that abandoning the voters who have stood by her in this way is poor form.

A former Prime Minister retiring after losing the position, forcing a by-election, is nothing new of course. Jim Bolger did the same thing.

On the other hand, Jenny Shipley retired eventually, but stuck round long enough to not force a by-election. In the National government at the moment there are Bill English and Don Brash, both former leaders of the opposition, and Bill English and Roger Douglas, former finance ministers, all of whom have stayed in parliament after being ousted from their high positions, unlike Helen Clark and Michael Cullen.

By contrast, Helen Clark:

  • Retired from the leadership voluntarily, unlike Bolger and Shipley, before choosing to retire from parliament.
  • Announced her retirement from the leadership (setting the stage for her leaving parliament) on the election night, completely different to Shipley.

Rather than thanking her voters for electing her, she set the stage to abandon them as soon as she learnt the election result. Furthermore she chose to do this herself rather than being toppled in a coup.

And now she moves to the UN, where she can continue to promote her views to yet more people but without having to be as accountable to voters.

Helen Clark is a well-respected NZ politician. Her views on many issues, although not my own, are supported by many New Zealanders, who elected her because of them.

I feel that by leaving like this she will damage Labour’s reputation with many voters, making Labour look like they are about power rather than policies. Although not a National voter myself, were I Joe Bloggs average swinging voter, usually choosing between Labour and National (the voters that ultimately decide every election result) I would be far more likely to pick a party whose MPs tended to stay to promote their policy regardless of what position they held, rather than retiring as soon as they lose the top job.

Although I disagree with her policies, I feel it is a shame to see her go, and can only harm Labour and upset her many supporters.

She has however done very well managing to become the head of the UNDP, so I must congratulate her on that.

John Key attacked at Waitangi

I have absolutely no respect for someone who thinks physically attacking the Prime Minister is a sensible way of getting their views across. Do these people really want to be taken seriously or not?

There seem to be many Maori who think Waitangi is a Maori event, and the rest of the country (such as the Prime Minister) only get to have anything to do with it with their leave. But that is nonsense. The Treaty of Waitangi was between Maori and the Crown, representing British settlers (at the time). It is as much a European thing as it is a Maori thing, and it is something for us all to celebrate. That anyone would think they can do what they like on Waitangi because this is about “their” race is disgraceful.

I hope Mr Key finds out what group these men are associated with and formally refuses to have any dealings with them in future, dealing with other Maori representatives instead. And I hope they are prosecuted for assault to the full extent of the law.

Yes there are real concerns held by many Maori, and issues that they would like Mr Key to address. But this is no way to encourage him to address them.

EDIT: See also
“One Law For All day”

“Maori flag on Waitangi day”

RMA reform – the good, the bad, and the ugly

National’s proposed RMA reforms have been released. The official summary is on Scoop. There’s some good in there and some bad. Reform of the RMA is certainly needed, it’s a horribly bloated piece of legislation. A few things that jump out are:

Removing frivolous, vexatious and anti-competitive objections
Good idea to get rid of anti-competitive objections. But what is “frivolous” or “vexatious”? Those words could mean anything. In practice this means:

  • Allowing the Environment Court to require security for costs.
  • Increasing the fee to appeal to the Environment court from $55 to $500.

Basically they are saying that any appeal from someone who is too poor to afford $500 plus an unspecified security deposit (could be thousands) is “frivolous”, and anyone who can afford that is not. This allows the wealthy greater access to justice than the poor and community organisations, and is a very bad move in my mind.

Streamlining decision making

  • This involves creating an Environmental Protection Agency (ie more bureaucracy) to determine whether a project is of national significance or not and push it through.
    I have no problem with streamlining things, but do we really need more bureaucrats to do less bureaucracy? Surely if it were streamlined we would need fewer bureaucrats?
  • Projects that are not of national significance can be sent directly to the Environment Court without the need to go through the local authority consenting process first.
    I understand the reason behind this. Currently our community is fighting the CPW irrigation scheme, and many organisations have spent thousands fighting the consents process knowing they will end up in the environment court anyway so their money is being wasted. But we need provision for one hearing, and one appeal. If the one E.Court hearing is the final decision, there is no backup if the first decision is faulty.

Minor changes to speed things up

  • Removing the ability for appellants to make general challenges or ones that seek the withdrawal of entire proposed policy statements and plans. But what if you have genuine concerns about the entire proposal?
  • Simplifying the process so that local authority decisions on submissions do not need to be made in respect of each individual submission but are to be made according to issues raised. Very sensible.
  • If consents are processed late, the fee must be discounted. Sounds like they were reading Family Party policy regarding building consents – this is a great idea. Can we have it for building consents too?
  • Allow local authorities to take enforcement action against the Crown. Also good.

So all up there is a lot to help push through big projects, a few things to help people with minor applications, and a definite bias against objectors regardless of whether their complaint is valid.

And still NO mention of private property rights ANYWHERE.

On average it may be more positive than negative, but there is a lot in there to be very concerned about. If they would only affirm common law private property rights they could throw away most of the RMA, just keeping a few bits that genuinely relate to Resource Management – such as permits for water abstraction etc. But unfortunately NZ elected a bunch of politicians who don’t have the guts to do that.

Other views:

Not PC thinks National is paving the way for Think Big 2.0

I am embarrassed to admit I actually agree with Russel Norman (Green Party):

However, increasing the filing fees for Environment Court cases and the requirement for security of costs will silence legitimate public input into local decision making. … How many community groups, made up of regular citizens, not millionaires, can come up with tens of thousands of dollars in security when they are trying to protect a coastal area from a property speculator?

Federated Farmers calls it “an ok first stab”, but has some concerns:

Some farmers will be dubious about changes that are aimed at streamlining projects of national significance and improving national instruments, without strengthening the rights of individuals to receive compensation.

Remember the Bill will be introduced later this month and open for public submissions.

The New Government

National’s agreements with Act, the Maori Party and United Future have been released, and in general they look pretty good. They are discussed in detail on Kiwiblog here (Act, UF, Maori). I am going to look at a few points that relate to families, and Family Party policy.

Act:

  • Reduce and align personal, trust and company tax rates at 30% as a medium-term goal. Excellent.
  • Various measures to reduce bureaucracy and core government expenditure. Excellent.
  • Delay the ETS so it can be reviewed in the light of the current economic situation etc. It is unfortunate that they aren’t dropping it, but reviewing it is something. Not as good as the Royal Commission would prefer but it is still slightly hopeful.

United Future:

  • National will support a bill on Income Splitting to the first reading. So we won’t necessarily get income splitting (it will just be considered by parliament), and it won’t be for married couples (as our policy is) but rather for however Peter Dunne wants to define a family (which could just be for people with children, who knows). But it is a granny-step in something close to the right direction.
  • Greater use of private hospitals to reduce waiting lists. Excellent.

Maori:

  • Review foreshore & seabed legislation.
  • “The two parties both have policy priorities and there are areas of commonality and other areas of difference. The National Party and the Maori Party will work together to progress these priorities as and where agreement can be found.” Basically a wishy-washy way of saying they’ll be cooperating without saying what they’re planning to do.

Act and United Future agree to support National’s 11 policy priorities and post-election action plan (the Maori party will only support individual policies on a case-by-case basis, but National still has a majority without them), so this should all happen. These policies include:

  • Tax cuts. Good.
  • Cap bureaucrats, focus on frontline services. Good.
  • No parole for the worst repeat violent offenders. Good.
  • National standards in literacy and numeracy. Sounds a great idea, but it better come while cutting another piece of teachers workloads to compensate, they have enough paperwork already.
  • Maintain WFF and Kiwisaver. Good for families already reliant on WFF. It would be nice however to see a long-term plan where WFF was phased out in favour of equivalent tax cuts, there are plenty of problems with WFF.
  • Keep interest-free student loans & provide a 10% bonus on early repayments. Bad, in my opinion. And I have a student loan myself. More incentive to borrow big, as now not only do you not have to pay interest, you now don’t even have to pay off all the principal.
  • “Instruct that a full 12-month course of Herceptin be publically available”. Very bad, as it establishes a terrible precedent of state interference in Pharmac. Pharmac’s decisions can mean life or death for some people. It must therefore be able to decide where to allocate limited state resources based on expert opinion, not based on political interference, as politicians are more likely to be swayed by emotive marketing campaigns for drugs that may not be the best use of state money. Note there is not even a guarantee to increase funding to cover it, Pharmac may be expected to take money away from other drugs to cover National’s whim. Effectively, the government may be deciding who lives and who dies, based on how well drug companies can market their products – we really don’t want that.
  • Repeal the EFA. Excellent.

There’s loads of other stuff in there, it’s mainly good.

Rodney Hide, Heather Roy, Peter Dunne, Pita Sharples and Tariana Turia will all be Ministers. It is odd having Peter Dunne as a Minister, considering he only contributes one seat and National doesn’t need him to govern, but I expect Key is looking to the future and getting in his good books in case UF has more seats next time round.

Act has not negotiated anything with regards to the smacking law, but we can expect them to be strongly pushing for National to honour the will of the people in the upcoming referendum. So hopefully that will go eventually.

All up this is a positive direction for the country. But there are a few negatives in it, state interference in Pharmac being one notable point. It is better than what we’ve put up with for the last 3 years however.

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