Friday, June 19, 2009

An Irish joke?

Anyone for an Irish joke?

Even more dramatically, numbers on the dole represented only 32 per cent of the officially unemployed in New Zealand, compared with 99 per cent in Australia, 69 per cent in Britain and 164 per cent in Ireland.

Say what?

Seriously. According to the NZ Herald, for every 100 people officially unemployed in Ireland, 164 are on the dole.

No it's Friday afternoon. I can't be bothered trying to figure that one out.

State intrusion now a "non-issue"

Today's DomPost editorial says that the repeal of section 59 was a burning issue two years ago but is a "non-issue" today. Then it repeats the message we are all supposed to absorb for our own good, that the poll question is confusing and ambiguous.

It continues;

Kiwi Party leader Larry Baldock and Family First's Bob McCoskrie, those chiefly behind the poll, believe that most parents should be left alone to raise their children as they wish, which might sometimes involve administering a smack. Opposing their stance are charities such as Unicef, Barnardoes, Plunket and the Families Commission.

It now occurs to me that the smacking referendum is being portrayed solely as a socialist left vs fundamentalist Christian crusade, with those in neither camp, the majority, getting or being turned off (as suits Messrs Key and Goff).

There is plenty I would normally disagree with Baldock and McCoskrie on. This time our views coincide, probably for different reasons. But I am not going to abandon my ability and right to think for myself and express those thoughts just to avoid lining up with Christian Right.

Most parents should be left alone to raise their children as they wish. It is nobody else's business. But the interferers, especially those who make their living out of it, want the right to meddle, to impose their beliefs, to control society. So they change the language. A smack is an assault (which yesterday led to the ridiculous event of Sue Bradford calling smacking an inconsequential and trivial assault.)

So now we have a situation whereby the police have the power (innocuously called 'discretion') to prosecute individuals because the worthies have changed the language. The worthies now have the power by proxy.

You like that then go ahead and vote 'yes'. But don't vote yes or abstain simply because you can't abide the conservative fundamentalists.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Should time out as part of good parental correction be a criminal offence in New Zealand?

Should time out as part of good parental correction be a criminal offence in New Zealand?

Time out is a tool for dealing with unwanted behaviour. So is a smack. Personally I never used time out nor particularly liked the idea. Do adults impose time out on each other? Sounds psychologically manipulative or cruel to me. But I don't think it should be a criminal offence. So I would have no difficulty answering this question.

Why is it so difficult to answer if I substitute 'a smack'? What is ambiguous about that?

If you don't like the thought of smacking and want it outlawed answer YES.

If you don't like the thought of smacking but don't want it outlawed answer NO.

Abortions down - why?

Stuff reports;

The drop in abortions performed in New Zealand probably indicates people are being more careful but more research is needed, the Abortion Law Reform Association (Alranz) says.

According to Statistics New Zealand figures released today, 17,940 induced abortions were performed in the year ending December 2008, down 440 (2.4 per cent) from the 2007 year.

"I'm hopeful that what it means is there's better use of contraception, better sex education and people are being more careful. But without research, one cannot really say that," Alranz president Dr Margaret Sparrow said.

(Assuming the miscarriage rate is steady) there were more pregnancies in 2008. Perhaps more were intentional. We simply don't know. But the fact that there were more pregnancies casts doubt on Margaret Sparrow's speculation about "better use of contraception, better sex education and people are being more careful."

For whatever reason more people decided to give birth rather than have an abortion.

I believe the most significant factor driving the current baby boom (across western nations) is fashion. Then policies like paid parental leave and baby bonuses. Then growing unemployment and the security of a benefit. But like Sparrow, I am only speculating.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Dane Moeke - Something very special

Don't miss this. On Friday nights we always watch Homai Te Pakipaki on Maori Television. Last Friday I was floored by this kid. I wrote to Maori TV suggesting they get him up on YouTube - who needs Susan Boyle - and just got a reply saying done, already. I've just watched it again and it had the same powerful effect. Made me cry.

Dane Moeke singing to his Dad. Sensational.

Key interfering with the democratic process

John Key is wrong to insist that the results of the smacking referendum won't change the law. Why? Because he appears to be sending a message to the public that they are wasting their time bothering to vote. At this stage he should just butt out. Instead he is taking up the case for the left, repeating their claims that the law is working well.

The debate may turn out to be an expensive waste of effort for both sides, with Mr Key saying yesterday that he had no intention of changing the law regardless of the outcome of the referendum.

"I think it's important that governments listen to the public, but the test I've had is that if I don't think the law is working I will change it," he said. "To date I have not seen any evidence that it is not working."

The question being asked in the referendum was ambiguous as it did not directly call for the law to be changed or repealed. The issue was of significant public concern two years ago but had died away, he said.

Again signalling to susceptible minds what to think or not to think.

Of course Mr Key doesn't want the referendum turnout to be large and meaningful because again, it will put him in the spotlight and if the overwhelming vote is 'no' he will have to come up with a better course of action than last time.

Update; Family First's Bob McCoskrie has unearthed this quote from Key when still in opposition -
The Labour Government has shown utter contempt for New Zealanders and the democratic process with its plan to railroad the anti-smacking bill through Parliament. The Labour-led Government knows the measure is deeply unpopular, so it plans to act against the wishes of the majority of Kiwis and ram the bill through under urgency. This is a deeply cynical abuse of power as Labour tries to clear the decks of this controversial issue. Helen Clark has refused to let her MPs vote the way they really think on this bill. To ram it through under the cover of urgency shows just how out of touch her government has become.

Key getting disturbingly close to walking in his predecessor's shoes.

Monday, June 15, 2009

A black hole where the opposition used to be

One of the ways I gather information is by monitoring parliamentary written questions to the Minister of Social Development. That has become a fruitless exercise. The kind of questions I am interested just don't get asked. Where there used to be strong and effective opposition in new Zealand (ACT) there is now a black hole. It is very unhealthy.

Think back to Labour's first two terms. People like Muriel Newman - agree with her or not - was constantly digging and dishing. She kept the issue of welfare in the papers, on the screens and in the minds of New Zealanders. She was Maharey's nemesis. Subjects like the non-naming of fathers, child support debt, women spending their entire adult lives on the DPB, benefit fraud, etc. were all canvassed regularly. In a similar vein Heather Roy did a much-needed, highly effective job on health consistently probing productivity and spending failures and the tragedy of public health rationing and waiting lists. While they may not have been in government, the public was served very well by these opposition MPs.

Unfortunately ACT MPs got sick of being in opposition. Sick of not being able to 'achieve anything' (forgetting that they were achieving a great deal simply by virtue of doing the job of opposition socialist National could not). So when Blair Mulholland asks what is the point of ACT now, with the exception of the Local Government Minister's efforts, I sympathise.

Roger Douglas, with the welfare portfolio, has asked only one question from the Minister of Social Development this year. While I can understand his staunch championing of a privatise-everything approach to welfare, that it's all-or-nothing means no attention is drawn to what might be done within the existing system, which let's face it, isn't going away in his lifetime and probably not mine.

Labour isn't opposition. Apart from being more profligate with public money in the public sector, their basic policies vary little from the government's. They can hardly go attacking National for what they would do themselves. Only for not doing it enough. And present problems are still very much of Labour's making anyway.

The Greens and the Maori Party are not overly keen on attacking National while hedging their pet-policy bets and in the area of welfare are again averse to highlighting the dysfunctional problems it creates and National's refusal to relinquish the status quo.

So now we have a black hole where genuine opposition once operated with zest and purpose. They are all on the same side but it's not the one I'm on.

Now we get this low grade scrapping over what a randy old minister did and didn't do, an abysmally petty by-election where the major 'foes' hug each other at the end. Doesn't this photo say it all?

Most of the money the government takes off you goes on welfare, health and education. Are you happy with what you are getting for it? Tell me yes and I will concede we don't need a real, functioning, opposition.