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If a liberal makes a valid point

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If a liberal makes a valid point

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Face TV listings Friday 29th March

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AM
8.00 In Focus
8.45 Classic serial
9.00 Bloomberg
10.00 Global 3000
10.30 Think Green
11.00 euronews

PM
12.00pm Citizen A
12.30 Baha’i on Air
1.00 TV Chile 24 Horas
1.30 euronews
2.00 NHK Newsline
2.30 Korean news
3.00 Dutch news
3.30 French news
4.00 German news
4.30 Tokyo Eye
5.00 Euromaxx
5.30 DW Journal
6.00 Aljazeera News
7.00 Fishin’ Trip
7.30 Drive it
8.00 On2Wheels
8.30 4WD TV
9.00 Australia News
9.30 The Untouchables [AO]
10.30 Aljazeera
11.30 Shintaro: Samurai [PG]

Face TV broadcasts on Sky 89 & Auckland UHF

Face TV Twitter
Face TV Facebook

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Making Bold With The Speaker’s Chair

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CromwellWHAT WAS HE THINKING? Labour Party MP, Trevor Mallard’s curt “Sit down ’til I’ve finished, for goodness sake!” – spoken to Parliament’s Speaker, David Carter – was extraordinary. The level of exasperation needed for someone as experienced as Mallard to commit such a flagrant breach of parliamentary order is considerable. Dissatisfaction with Speaker Carter’s behaviour in the Chair has clearly reached unprecedented levels.

Who cares? You might say. Anyone watching Question Time with any expectation of witnessing mature behaviour is bound to be disappointed. One of Parliament’s younger MPs told me recently that the behaviour she had observed on the floor of the House of Representatives took her all the way back to her school days – her primary school days.

But that is just too easy. Parliament is a political forum, not an academic institute. Passions run high in such places – as they should. Our representatives, spatially divided into those who possess executive power, and those who mean to take it from them, are civilisation’s alternative to contending armies in the field.

As Winston Churchill put it: “Better jaw, jaw, than war, war.”

So, “robust debate” is to be expected from our MPs. We are, after all, talking about the Legislature – the place where our laws are made. The people gathered in that Wellington chamber can add to, or strip away, people’s rights; raise or lower their taxes; determine what they are paid; increase or decrease the quantum of their health care and the quality of their children’s education.

In short, Parliament matters.

And because Parliament matters, the competency of the officer charged with enforcing the “Standing Orders” – the rules – of parliamentary conduct also matters. A Speaker who cannot create and maintain order is a failure and should be replaced.

The surest way for order to break down in the debating chamber is for the Speaker to allow the impression to grow, on either the Government or the Opposition benches, that he or she is unfairly favouring the other side.

The qualifying adverb “unfairly” is important in this context because to protect our representative democracy a good Speaker must always lean slightly towards the Opposition.

This is because the Westminster System (unlike the American Constitution) seats the Executive Power in the same chamber as the Legislative Power. The Crown, or, rather, her chief ministers, not only sit around the Cabinet Table, they also sit in the House of Representatives. This tradition places a great deal more weight on the Government’s end of the parliamentary see-saw than the Opposition’s.

Hence the need for an Opposition-friendly Speaker.

To fully appreciate the reason why the Speaker’s office is so vital to the effective functioning of the legislature one has only to recall the scene in England’s House of Commons on 4 January 1642.

King Charles I, determined to put an end to the uncooperative behaviour of his parliamentary opponents, took himself and his men-at-arms to the Houses of Parliament at Westminster.

With his soldiers in plain sight, the King strode into the Chamber.

“Mr Speaker”, said the King, “I must for a time make bold with your chair.”

Having seated himself in the Speaker’s, William Lenthall’s, chair, the King, looking around, realised that the MPs he had come to arrest were not present. Turning to Lenthall, he inquired as to their whereabouts. The Speaker said nothing, but falling to his knees, informed Charles that “May it please your Majesty, I have neither eyes to see nor tongue to speak in this place but as the House is pleased to direct me, whose servant I am here.”

“Tis no matter,” the King replied, “I think my eyes are as good as another’s. All my birds have flown.”

Within days England’s King was at war with England’s Parliament.

As a result of the English Civil War, Kings no longer come to the House of Commons.

But Prime Ministers and their Cabinet colleagues do.

And all that prevents John Key from “making bold” with the Opposition’s ability to uphold Parliament’s right and duty to both challenge the Executive Power and hold its ministers to account are the Standing Orders of the House, and the Speaker’s determination to enforce them.

This is exactly what the last Speaker, Dr Lockwood Smith, did.

To the evident distress of the Government benches, Speaker Smith insisted on the Executive (i.e. Cabinet Ministers) answering properly the questions put to them by Opposition Members. In doing so he displayed the courage and integrity required of Parliament’s presiding officer.

If the House is not to become a mere rubber-stamp for the Prime Minister’s majority, the Speaker must ensure that “Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition” is given the power to do its job.

Trevor Mallard’s cold fury of yesterday afternoon (27/3/13), and the egregious breach of parliamentary etiquette that followed, was born of Speaker Carter’s refusal to uphold the standards of Executive accountability and behaviour insisted upon by Speaker Smith.

Again and again the Prime Minister, John Key, “made bold” with the Standing Orders of the House. The Opposition expected Speaker Carter’s immediate intervention: for the Prime Minister to be asked to withdraw and apologise for making comments likely to cause disorder. But Speaker Carter did not oblige them. The Prime Minister was only required to withdraw after the Green Party co-leader, Russel Norman, more-or-less insisted that Speaker Carter make him do so.

Then the Prime Minister repeated his offence – and again he was not rebuked by the Speaker.

So outraged was Mr Mallard by these repeated failures to rein-in the Prime Minister that he rose to his feet and addressed Speaker Carter in words of such cold contempt and peremptory command that he was immediately ejected from the chamber.

It is now a matter of some urgency that Speaker Carter undertake a thorough review of the way he has been handling Question Time. He should also give some serious thought to how he deals with the Prime Minister’s increasing propensity to “make bold” with Parliament’s Standing Orders.

The way the Westminster System has evolved in New Zealand places enormous responsibility in the Speaker hands. Foremost among these is his responsibility to give the Opposition sufficient authority to ensure that Cabinet’s presence on the floor of the House does not blur and diminish the constitutionally-vital separation of Executive and Legislative Power.

Only the Speaker can give the Opposition that authority. Failure to do so will inevitably be interpreted as a deliberate weakening of our representative democracy.

If that is what Trevor was thinking yesterday, then his bad manners were entirely justified.

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Department of Conservation Was Just An Aspirational Title After All

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In the recent era of Parliamentary Politics in New Zealand, the Cabinet posts the Prime Minister assigns themselves are more symbolic than they are functional. Once upon a time, not so long ago, the PM would fancy themselves as a bit of an expert in a particular policy field and would duly take charge of it while attending to stately duties. Muldoon’s iron fist gripped the Finance portfolio for three terms; Lange’s first-term stint as Foreign Affairs Minister elevated both our oratorical expectations and our international reputation. Since 1999, the two main parties have focussed more of their policy, strategy and political capital on the skill and personality of their leader. Over the same period, newsroom budgets have shrunk, aiding and abetting this concentration. It is cheaper and easier to have journalists trail the PM, rather than the whole of cabinet, who now more than ever dive, deflect and defer when questions are put to them.

Too busy being in charge of everything to be in charge of anything, our two Prime Ministers since 1999 have pegged their Ministerial warrants (excluding the Executive & Intelligence functions that come with the job) to leisure pursuits rather than vital strategic roles. Helen Clark served 9 years as Minister for Arts, Culture & Heritage. After assuming office in 2009, John Key made himself Minister of Tourism. From this one strategic decision, allow me to extrapolate wildly and sketch a portrait of their interests and ideologies. In Aunty Helen we had a leader who appreciated the value of asking complicated questions about abstract concepts like nationhood and personhood. Questions that didn’t have neat or tidy or even convenient answers. Most importantly, she appreciated the value of the people asking the questions, and her Government helped keep the struggling artist dream alive through initiatives like the PACE scheme (‘Artist’s Dole’).

John’s Ministry, on the other hand, is pointed mainly at recruiting wealthy visitors to spend a lot of money quickly, making tourism operators rich, on the back of however many minimum wage jobs it takes to stay afloat. Visit Hobbiton, drink some Central Otago Pinot, jump off a bridge, play some golf, head home again. It’s problematic when the visitors stick around and start to ask pesky questions about the sustainability or value of such an approach, so just keep the revolving door of bulging wallets spinning as fast as we can.

Tourism New Zealand’s two biggest campaigns to attract these wallets for their adrenaline fuelled emptying are the “100% Pure” brand campaign, and Peter Jackson’s Tolkien adaptations. Both of these are augmented versions of the same thing: New Zealand’s iconic landscape, wild and varied and pristine. So why has the Prime Minister, the Minister of Tourism, slowly but surely declared war on our Greatest Asset? Let me count the ways: plans to open up the Conservation estate to mining, angry responses to scientists questioning the 100% Pure assertion, inaction over the poor quality of our waterways, firing Department of Conservation staff, gutting the Resource Management Act, investing heavily in irrigation during our worst drought in 70 years, watching oil spill out onto our beaches while they entertain risky deep sea drilling, stopping people in Canterbury from electing their own representatives to oversee the management of their environment, weakening the Emissions Trading Scheme and making the agriculture sector exempt indefinitely, firing more Department of Conservation staff and having a Deputy Prime Minister who is, publicly at least, skeptical about the impact of human behaviour on climate change.

Why would the Minister of Hobbiton Tourism allow such a comprehensive assault on the very same environment that let him hold hands with Big Business and shake hands with Real Celebs? The most obvious answer is that Key has never been interested in what happens to his party, let alone the country, when he gets bored of being the boss and goes back to playing rounds of golf for small island principalities. But perhaps what we’re seeing here is the opening gambit in a move to seriously downsize our great wilderness. Having fewer DoC staff won’t be a problem if we just shrink the area they are responsible for, and what do you know if there isn’t mineral wealth (Just like Australia!) in the land that gets left behind. Trying to maintain all of our current National Parks at a level befitting even the ludicrously ‘aspirational’ 100% Pure brand is an expensive business. If we shrink the parks and mine the rest, we also won’t need so much water in those areas and we can filter that off to dairy farms the length and breadth of the country. Lastly, fewer elections – or fewer powers of oversight for those democratically elected bodies – means fewer pesky, complicated questions. John Key hates pesky, complicated questions because they get in the way of all the progress.

New Zealand’s environment is no longer considered by our Government to be an asset for the people of this country, and the future generations to come, to use at their discretion. Our ability to swim in our rivers and lakes, to climb our mountains and hike around our stunning vistas has become secondary to how the same areas can be manipulated as bait to lure wealthy tourists. John Key has said he is open to corporate sponsorship of the Conservation Estate, but I do wonder how big a leap it is from here to having parts of it privately owned by luxury accommodation providers. What a coup for Millbrook if they had a patch of exclusive native bush to go next to the golf course in their brochure! Just small amounts mind, to free up some capital for schools and hospitals and that. What, do you hate schools and hospitals? Didn’t think so.

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Ethical Easter

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Easter is upon us and that generally means stuffing ourselves silly with chocolate.

 

But before you go spend up large, take a moment to read this very handy guide to Palm Oil Free Easter Goodies put together by the good people at Auckland Zoo. Aside from conservation concerns, it makes chocolate taste like wax. Don’t do it. Urgh.

 

Happy Easter All!

 

 

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Spinning the Private Prison Stats

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Private prison gets a ratings tick
Private prison operator Serco is outperforming most public prisons in league tables which measure prison escapes, positive drug tests and rates of violence and rehabilitation.

The Corrections Department published the performance grades for New Zealand’s 17 prisons for the first time in a bid for greater transparency and accountability.

League tables for Private Prisons huh?

Does anyone reading this honestly believe that the stats give SERCO the clean slate they are claiming?

Because I have a lot of questions about this data and am curious as to why the Government haven’t released the raw numbers on these prisons.

Before we take the Government’s spin at face value, let’s note some issues…

-SERCO are high ranking as they have no staff in wings with prisoners due to low staffing level. This means they have really low staff assaults.

-HB Prison is poorly ranked due to 1 serious staff assault. Other than that they would be great.

-SERCO have mainly remand prisoners so do not have to do rehab for most prisoners. The few they do have they put on programs so it looks like they have lots happening but actually it is about 20 prisoners.

-SERCO is a brand new prison that is like no other in the country. It is the easiest prison to run because of design and tech in the place.

-On top of this the worst prisoners are removed to Auckland prison. Public prisons cant do this as Auckland refuse to take remand prisoners at the maxi as they are not sentenced.

-Finally the Government are spending several more millions of dollars on strengthening the cells in this brand new prison due to the Houdini escape. There is nothing wrong with the cells it is just that SERCO have no staff to monitor the prisoners at night. which means that this prisoner had many hours to smash metal board against concrete walls without anyone doing anything about it as there was no one monitoring this. In the public system you have at least 1 staff member in each wing to monitor this sort of thing. Instead of making SERCO staff the place properly they simply spend more tax payer money making it stronger so they can run with low staffing.

The so called stats that the Government have weighted to create the appearance of SERCO out performing public prisons are loaded dice to con the public.

By 2014, NZ will have the highest proportion of prisoners in private prisons than any other country on the planet. These private prisons are now forced labour camps where Prisoners are refused parole if they don’t work for slave wages.

What’s more disgusting is that ACC is a major investor in this corporate evil. The more NZers imprisoned for longer, the more returns for ACC. They have a vested profit motive in seeing NZers locked up.

Our hatred for prisoners whipped up by the Sensible Sentencing Trust and a crime porn media has left reason at the door.

We are building a bitter empire of despair where justice is second to making money.

Ugly. Very ugly.

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I confess to agreeing with John Key

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When Labour leader David Shearer announced the proposal to drop plans to cut GST from fresh fruit and vegetables Prime Minister John Key made the made the flippant comment that it showed Labour didn’t believe in the policies it put before voters at the last election and that it didn’t know what it believed in anymore.

I must agree with the Prime Minister.

Along with scrapping its GST proposal Labour also proposes to scrap policy to make the first $5,000 of income tax free; scrap plans to increase tax on those earning over $150,000 and scrap plans to remove the Working for Families discrimination against the children of beneficiaries.

In other words all Labour’s meek tinkering to support those on low incomes is to the dropped so that the rich can continue to get richer and the poor continue to struggle.

Labour’s right wing has reasserted itself under Shearer and has a death grip on even these most modest of progressive policies.

These policy back-downs are a betrayal of low-income families while offering reassurance to the wealthy and the corporate sector that Labour is good for the all-important generous corporate donations for the next election campaign.

The GST back-down is pitiful because just a percent or so more tax on the super-rich would enable Labour to keep this policy.

It is not widely understood just how heavy and vicious GST is on the poor. The lowest 10% of income earners in spend 14% of their income on GST while the wealthiest 10% spent less than 5% of their income on GST.

It’s a medieval tax designed by Labour’s neo-liberal robber barons in the 1980s.

GST could be scrapped altogether if Labour introduced progressive income tax policies, a decent capital gains tax and a financial transactions tax.

Consider for a moment that half the small group of super-rich New Zealanders do not even pay the highest income tax rate (they declare incomes of less than $70,000) and yet Labour prefers to leave the heaviest tax burden on those on the lowest incomes.

I don’t think Labour has a clue what it believes in anymore.

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The shameful, shameful framing of Teina Pora

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There can be no question of how dirty and filthy the tactics employed by the NZ Police to frame a teenager for a rape murder he never committed.

-Interviewing a teenager for 5 days without a lawyer.

-paying for false testimony.

-Pora not even knowing which address the murder/rape was commiteed in.

and now we find out that the Police knew the DNA never matched…

New twist in Teina Pora case
A 3rd Degree investigation has revealed another extraordinary twist in the case of Teina Pora.
He was convicted of the 1992 rape and murder of Susan Burdett after telling police he’d witnessed the attack. Many experts consider his confession false and his conviction a miscarriage of justice.
Now it has been discovered police had already figured out the Auckland woman had been attacked by a serial rapist before Pora went to trial. But the DNA tests that would prove that serial rapist was Malcolm Rewa didn’t come back until after Pora was convicted.

…for many NZers who are fed a media diet of Authority Porn TV cop shows where Mr Plod is always shown in the most positive light, such revelations that the NZ Police framed a teenager for a rape/murder he never committed will be difficult to accept.

For me the most compelling evidence over and above what has already been listed is the specifics of this case. The murder was brutal and created blood splatter patterns that suggested a frenzied violence well beyond the capabilities of a teenage boy.

The Police knew that, but they framed this kid anyway.

Congratulations to 3rd Degree, this is television journalism at its best.

This is a shameful, shameful day in NZ justice and serious questions have to be asked of how the Police managed to get away with these types of corrupt tactics and it begs the question, how many other innocent NZers are serving time for crimes they never committed.

The NZ Police framed a kid for 20 years and are now scrambling to cover that corruption. If you’re not angry, you’re not paying attention.

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Vote Idol not so Idle

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$905 000 taxpayer dollars can morph current affairs into gladiatorial television entertainment and TV3s new debate show proves that.

Garner is at his best when he is fighting for the underdog, Espiner is at his best when he’s pimping for corporate interests and the debate on taxing fatty and sugary food was the sort of TV that would feature just before Schwarzenegger’s Running Man and just after Bum Fights.

It’s interesting that the live audience turned against the argument to tax Big Sugar yet the wider online margin went towards taxing Big Sugar.

The shouty shouting makes for the passion that TV so often lacks and keeps the pace moving.

It’s a solid debate show that we used to get on University Campuses before Students Associations became the faded dull lifeless grey they are today.

Well worth a monthly viewing.

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What we were really thinking on Native Affairs

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What we were really thinking on Native Affairs

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Angry People 0 – 21st Century NZ 3 – Marriage Equality passes third hurdle

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Angry People 0 – 21st Century NZ 3 – Marriage Equality passes third hurdle

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The logic behind asset sales

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The logic behind asset sales

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‘Haters gonna hate’ isn’t an argument against Gay Marriage Mr Horan

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‘Haters gonna hate’ isn’t an argument against Gay Marriage Mr Horan

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What Pita really thought

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What Pita really thought

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Face TV listings Thursday 28th March

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AM
8.00 In Focus
8.45 Classic serial
9.00 Bloomberg
10.00 California Life
10.30 In Good Shape
11.00 euronews

PM
12.00pm Beatson Interview
12.30 Bloomberg
1.00 TV Chile 24 Horas
1.30 euronews
2.00 NHK Newsline
2.30 Korean news
3.00 Dutch news
3.30 French news
4.00 German news
4.30 Hollywood Highlights
5.00 Euromaxx
5.30 DW Journal
6.00 Aljazeera News
7.00 Let’s Talk
7.30 Citizen A
8.00 31 Questions [PG]
8.30 The Tribute Show
9.00 Australia News
9.30 IFSS Uncut [PG]
10.00 The Twilight Zone [PG]
10.30 Aljazeera
11.30 Blokesworld [AO]

Face TV broadcasts on Sky 89 & Auckland UHF

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Face TV Facebook

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