Thursday, October 29, 2009

At least someone in this country has some backbone!

Young men 'will fight back' against police who try to take a DNA sample under the new Criminal Investigations (Bodily Samples) Amendment Bill, says Maori party. Good on them, I say, because this bill goes way too far in its subjugation of individual rights.

From 2011, the police will be allowed to take DNA samples from anyone they intend charging with an imprisonable offence. Consent will not be needed, and samples will be able to be taken without judicial approval, says this article in The Herald.

This proposed law is disgraceful. We all know the police will take as many samples as they can because ultimately they would like to have everyone's DNA on file - it makes their job easier after all - and it's obvious that the criteria of 'intent to charge' can be applied to any person they arrest on any pretext. In other words, this bill gives the police the right to treat everyone like violent criminals and to hold them down while a DNA sample is forcibly taken from them - and presumably to beat the crap out of them if they try to resist. And all without the requirement to present any evidence to a judge to justify their thuggery.

This is like something out of Stalinist Russia and its introduction needs to be fought tooth and nail!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Has Drink-Driving Policing Gone too Far?

Last night my wife paid a late visit to the supermarket. She was gone a lot longer than I expected and when she arrived home she told me she had been stopped by a police drink-driving checkpoint and made to complete a road-side breath test. She failed it and was required to accompany an officer back to the police station for an evidential breath test.

Fair enough, I hear you say? Well, the thing is, she had had nothing to drink - not a skerrick in the previous 24 hours. Even as he arrested her, the officer said to his colleagues that this case was clearly a "mouthwash" one. And so it turned out to be - my wife scored zero on the two evidential breath tests she was required to undergo at the station.

Now my wife is a very law-abiding person who has worked closely with the police in her job as a social worker so she was far more understanding than I would be. But it raises the question of why, if they knew she was very unlikely to be breaking the law, they had to infringe her rights by arresting her for what they knew would be a futile procedure?

I appreciate that we need laws to protect society from the irresponsible and negligent actions of those who care little for the rights of others. But this draconian programme of harrassing law-abiding motorists to prevent the possibility of people drink-driving seems to have gone way beyond what is reasonable. I am often underwhelmed by the figures, published by the police themselves, that show they stop thousands of motorists nationally each week for only a small handful of prosecutions. And all the resources going into this campaign are diverted from assaults, burglaries and other serious crimes.

I don't blame the police - they are just blindly following the laws and meeting the targets the politicians have laid down for them. Clearly, police officers need greater discretion in cases like this and the politicians need to allow police managers to use their judgement in terms of the resources and focus they put into this area.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

The Good and the Bad of New Zealand

I am feeling content as I sit in the salubrious rooms we have hired in Martinborough for the weekend, drinking fine wine, eating delicious snacks and looking forward to the slow-cooked Angus beef we have ordered from the chef for dinner. Thoughts of a $10 billion deficit, the ACC levy rises, new taxes, the recent battles we have had with city council officials, and all the other distractions of daily life in Godzone are pushed far to the back of the mind.

The thing is, life can be so good in this little country of ours. And you don't have to be Bill Gates for it to be so. We should be grateful for such an idyllic existence.

I just wish the politicians, the bureaucrats, the social scientists and the media pundits who try to make us all adhere to their idea of what a good and just society should be, would just leave us alone to enjoy the one we already have!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

ACC levies to rise - backlash needed!

ACC levies to rise! No, not the right solution, Nick Smith, you fool! Go to the bottom of the class.

There needs to be a backlash over this like the 'fart tax'!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

ACC - the alternative welfare system

The only time in recent years that I have had cause to claim ACC was for a particularly severe case of occupational overuse syndrome (known as OOS - what used to be called RSI). I had been spending even more time than usual at the keyboard and had developed such severe pain in my back and shoulders that I couldn't sleep. The physiotherapist I saw pointed out that I could claim ACC for her costs but NOT if the injury had been done at work! If it had been done at the gym, fine, I could claim, but if it had been caused by my work, I couldn't!

This incident brought home to me what a perversion of the original intent of the scheme ACC has become. If I had made up a story about how I was under stress because of some imagined childhood trauma, then I would be covered. If I have a genuine (and genuinely debilitating, I can assure you) injury from work, I'm not.
It certainly bears no resemblence to the accident and workplace injury insurance scheme it was conceived to be.

The future liability for current claims is $24 billion. That is $6,000 for every man, women and child in New Zealand. I certainly have no claim on that $24 billion, neither does any member of my family. I have no friends or associates that are off work on ACC. So where are these claims coming from? Well, in the main they aren't coming from the working population of New Zealand. They're coming disproportionately from those who would otherwise receive welfare benefits. So John Key is right, for once. ACC has become an extension of the welfare state - the safety net below the safety net.

We have to start weaning people off this profligate scheme. It has to be fair and reasonable if it is to survive, and that means fair to those who pay the bill - the workers, employers and taxpayers of New Zealand. The right answer, of course, is to abolish and/or privatise it. Jim Bolger's government had the balls to do that. It remains to be seen whether this National Government has any at all.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Pseudo nonsense

John Key, acting on the advice of his science advisor, Sir Peter Gluckman, plans to make pseudoephedrine-based cold remedies prescription-only medicines.

I am self-employed and when I get a cold I need to be able to continue to function in my work and family life. Pseudoephedrine-based cold medicines are the only effective treatment. Aside from the cost and inconvenience of having to see a doctor to obtain it, our national shortage of GPs means that it is often impossible to get an appointment with a GP in a hurry unless your are seriously ill. By the time I get to see the doctor and have a prescription filled, my symptons will usually have passed. So, a ban on over-the-counter sales of these cold remedies will greatly inconvenience me, cost me income and ruin my productivity for the period I have a cold.

I'm told that the vast majority of "P" is produced from imported ingredients and that abuse of over-the-counter sales has been virtually eliminated through the current vigilance of pharmacists. So what is the point of penalising law-abiding citizens?

This Sir Peter Gluckman already has his fingerprints all over the stupid Emissions Trading Scheme (see my post here). What other foolishness is John Key going to implement on this guy's advice?

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Telecom - seeing the eye of the beast

This afternoon I saw the Telecom New Zealand everyone complains about. I confess I've been a defender of Telecom over the years and thought they were pretty unfairly treated by the media and the previous Government. After all, they are our largest company and anyone who has seen my previous blog on large companies in NZ (here) will know that I think the main reason for New Zealand's relatively poor economic performance is the difficult environment it provides for large companies. So I'm not normally a whinger about corporate greed. However...

Today I discovered that Telecom has been overcharging me (and no doubt countless other customers) on domain name hosting. Telecom charges me $15.75 per month or about $190/year for my domain name when most other providers charge $30 - $40 per year. Now maybe I deserve to be ripped off because I'm too lazy or too stupid to check Telecom's pricing on a regular basis. In my defence, I'm a pretty busy person and I'm not the one in our household who pays the bills. In any event, that doesn't excuse Telecom ripping its customers off.

When I rang Telecom and spoke to the Filipino (or Malaysian or resident of whichever other South East Asian country currently hosts their help desk) in their Complex Technical Support Department (don't even ask!) about the overcharging, he informed me that Telecom has no obligation to match their competitors' pricing or to keep their customers informed about their highly uncompetitive rates. I responded that I would expect a good corporate citizen to do just that. I'm afraid I failed to convince him. I suggested he might like to refund the overcharging for the last two years. He couldn't see the logic in doing that, even when I pointed out that when I take the matter to the telecommunications commissioner it was likely Telecom will be ordered to refund every customer they have overcharged. He couldn't see the logic in that either.

This is the sort of unethical corporate behaviour I have heard people accusing Telecom of for years. As I say, I've defended the company against such accusations. Well, I can now understand why people detest the company so much. The amount involved is small so that's not my concern. The thing that amazes me is that our largest company can have such a serious ethics and integrity problem. Perhaps the previous Government was right to attack the company with every legislative, policy and public opinion weapon it could. Perhaps they saw on a grand scale what I have just experienced on a very small scale. I recall Paul Reynolds, the CEO, stating publicly that things had changed under his management. Clearly the beast hasn't changed its spots that much.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Taito Phillip Field Jailed for 6 years

It is sad to hear that former MP Phillip Field will go to prison for six years for bribery and corruption, particularly so as it must be a further blow to his Samoan community with the devastation in his homeland at this time. What is perhaps sadder was the poor judgement shown by his colleagues in the Labour Party at the time he was being investigated and those in his community who seemed to regard his prosecution as some sort of racist vendetta.

The sentence seems stiff but I'm sure the perversion of justice charges he was found guilty of pushed it up from the few years that might have been expected.

It is time to move on and I hope those in the community who criticised his prosecution will see that justice has been done and appreciate that corruption of this nature must be rooted out.

Monday, October 5, 2009

ETS - Earnest Trivial Self-flagellation

So, the Government is about to impose an Emissions Trading Scheme on us. That's just what New Zealand needs - another millstone around the necks of the few enterprising people who try to produce goods and services, and thereby create jobs and income, in this quaint little backwater we call home. Environment Minister Nick Smith says of the Government's proposed scheme that it "will be the first of any country outside of Europe and, as of 1 July 2010, will be the most comprehensive."

Leaving aside the fact that even the IPCC scientists are starting to admit that global warming is a myth (e.g. see, this scheme will do nothing to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions and it will cost New Zealanders more than $2B per year. That cost will be added to our already expensive power bills and the price of everything else we buy.

New Zealand produces 0.2% of the world's so-called greenhouse gas emissions. China produces about 20% and this is expected to double by 2050. China has been lauded in the international media recently for talking about self-imposed limits on emissions - but these are not absolute reductions, they are only talking about reducing the CO2 emissions per dollar of GDP. Given China is increasing its GDP by 8 - 10% per year, this still means a substantial increase in emissions. So any reduction we make is going to be trivial in comparison to the increase in emissions coming from China alone. At best, our savings will be a futile gesture. At worst, they will drag our country further towards the economic basketcase we appear so determined to become.

The ETS is nothing more than economic self-flagellation and, like the physical form, it may give us a feeling of righteousness, but our self-inflicted wounds will weaken us while China and other countries gain an economic advantage from our misplaced idealism.