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Labour lacking in gender balance – and female capability?

Labour is going backwards with their ideal, gender balance, especially in their senior ranks.

In October 2017 (just after she became Prime Minister) Ardern vows to improve Cabinet gender balance

Women would hold just six of Labour’s 16-strong Cabinet posts, and just one of its five ministerial roles outside of Cabinet.

Ms Ardern said that was not good enough and she was vowing to bring more women up to the top level.

“I’m going to make sure that we continue to work on bringing through more of our team”.

“We set ourselves a goal as a Labour Party that we would bring more women into our caucus. When we set that goal we set it at 50 percent, and we came very close to achieving that this election and I’m proud of that”.

“We’ll continue to make sure that we try to see that reflected in our membership as they come up through roles and responsibilities through both our caucus and through our Cabinet.”

That’s not happening yet – in fact it’s deteriorating.

With the resignation of now ex-Ministers Clare Curran and the sacking of Meka Whaitiri there are now:

  • 8 female of 26 ministers
  • 6 female ministers of 19 in Cabinet
  • 3 female ministers on the front bench (top 10)
  • 5 female Labour ministers

As a comparison, the last National-led line-up (April 2017):

  • 9 female of 27 ministers
  • 7 female of 22 in Cabinet
  • 2 female ministers on the front bench
  • 9 female National ministers

In the Labour-led government, NZ First and Greens balance each other out. NZ First has 1 female of 3 ministers, while Greens have 2 female of 3 ministers.

Labour now has just Jacinda Ardern (1), Megan Woods (6), Carmel Sepuloni (9), Nanaia Mahuta (12) and Jenny Salesa (15) – five out of fifteen.

And there’s not many stand outs there, yet at least.

Gender balance in Parliament and in Cabinet are great ideals, but to achieve that requires enough quality female candidates standing for Parliament, and enough of them capable of handling roles as ministers and in Cabinet.

Both failures as ministers have been Labour MPs.

While I think that most people would like to see approximate gender balances in Parliament, I think that most voters – male and female – would choose competence over tokenism and making up the numbers with MPs not up to the job.

Trump keeps trashing his Attorney General

As others have expressed here, it is easy to become numb to what Donald Trump says. Incredulity is turning into boredom due to the number of outrageous things he says.

Media don’t help as they keep reporting on stupid but trivial things, like his comments on the hurricane Florence flooding “One of the wettest we’ve ever seen, from the standpoint of water”. Mocking Trump is like breathing air.

But Trump’s ongoing involvement and interference in judicial matters and investigations is (or should be) a major concern.

Like Trump says ‘hard to imagine’ Kavanaugh guilty of allegation

Trump conceded that “we’ll have to make a decision” if Ford’s account proves convincing.

“I can only say this: He is such an outstanding man. Very hard for me to imagine that anything happened,” Trump said.

This is mild involvement by Trump’s standards, but it would normally be prudent for President stay right out of things like this (Trump us not known for prudence).

However some of the most serious interference from Trump is his ongoing attacks on his Attorney General, Jeff Sessions.

Hill.TV INTERVIEW EXCLUSIVE: Trump eviscerates Sessions: ‘I don’t have an attorney general’

“I don’t have an attorney general. It’s very sad,”

“I’m so sad over Jeff Sessions because he came to me. He was the first senator that endorsed me. And he wanted to be attorney general, and I didn’t see it”

“And then he went through the nominating process and he did very poorly. I mean, he was mixed up and confused, and people that worked with him for, you know, a long time in the Senate were not nice to him, but he was giving very confusing answers. Answers that should have been easily answered. And that was a rough time for him.”

“He gets in and probably because of the experience that he had going through the nominating when somebody asked him the first question about Hillary Clinton or something he said ‘I recuse myself, I recuse myself”.

“And now it turned out he didn’t have to recuse himself. Actually, the FBI reported shortly thereafter any reason for him to recuse himself. And it’s very sad what happened.”

What Trump seems to be sad about is that Sessions is acting for the United States of America, as he absolutely should be, and not in Trump’s own personal interests.

And as is common, Trump is wrong in the recusal.  Sessions told the Senate Intelligence Committee:

“I recused myself not because of any asserted wrongdoing on my part during the campaign, but because a Department of Justice regulation, 28 CFR 45.2, required it.”

Trump appears to see himself as above the law.

He has been trashing Sessions for some time, because Sessions is not doing what he wants, and doesn’t do what Trump says he wants him to do.

Trump has the power to sack Sessions. That he hasn’t done that despite his ongoing criticism suggests that it has been made clear to him that it would likely lead to a crisis in his presidency, and would possibly making his own position untenable.

If Trump sacked sessions it may (and should) precipitate mass resignations from his administration, and it may even force Republican politicians to stand up for their country rather than rolling over for Trump.

Massey, free speech, racism and Māori issues

The Massey University free speech debate flared up after politician (ex Leader of the Opposition) and activist on a number of issues Don Brash was prevented from speaking about his experience as a politician.

The person who cancelled the event that Brash was due to speak at, vice-chancellor, cited security issues, but it is clear she didn’t want Brash to speak due to what she claims is his ‘racism’.

17 July Jan Thomas (NZH): Free speech is welcome at universities, hate speech is not

Let me be clear, hate speech is not free speech. Moreover, as Moana Jackson has eloquently argued, free speech has, especially in colonial societies, long been mobilised as a vehicle for racist comments, judgements and practices.

Beyond the reach of the law, however, the battle against hate speech is fought most effectively through education and courageous leadership, rather than through suppression or legal censure.

And this is where universities can take positive action by providing a venue for reasoned discussion and cogent argument.

Universities are characterised by the academic values of tolerance, civility, and respect for human dignity.

And that is why it is important to identify and call out any shift from free speech towards hate speech. The challenge we face is to clarify when that shift occurs and to counter it with reason and compassion.

It should be countered with better arguments, not banning.

8 August (edited from an interview on Newstalk ZB): Massey vice chancellor Jan Thomas tries to explain Brash ban

What I have said was that ah there was an event held in ah the Manawatu here on our campus, ah from ah Hobson’s Pledge ah which ah was particularly offensive for ah particularly our Maori staff, and ah that is not the sort of thing that I would like to see at a university campus. Um that wasn’t ah Dr Brash speaking, um it was around ah Hobson’s Pledge that particular time.

So those sorts of events are events ah where the discussion um moves from being one ah of talking about ah the issues and evidence based ah good rational debate where people are able to speak about um their perspectives on a whole range of different things.

I also am quite happy to stand behind my comments that hate speech is not welcome on campus, and the way I would consider hate speech is ah when hate speech might demean or humiliate or silence groups of people based on a common trait, whether it be sexuality or religion or race or whatever, um because ah that is essentially ah the same as bullying of a larger group of people, and we don’t tolerate  bullying in the playground do we…

In emails (from Kiwiblog Massey lying over cancellation of Brash speech):

So I sum, I really want to find a way to indicate that Brash is not welcome on campus unless he agrees to abide by our values and the laws against hate speech.

The notion of exploring ideas and free speech on campus should be providing that it does not cause harm to others and does not break the laws. Hate speech had no place on our campus and as a te Tiriti led university our values need to be respected too. I feel a great deal of responsibility around the WHS responsibilities to our Māori staff and students.

I think these are quite common type views where there are valid concerns over biased and racist attacks on Māori (and other minority races in New Zealand, which most people have some connection to).

But it can also be used to shut down valid different opinions on Māori issues. Don Brash has become a major figure in these discussions since he became infamous for his NATIONHOOD – Don Brash Speech Orewa Rotary Club in 2004.

His more recent association with Hobson’s Pledge “He iwi tahi tatou: We are now one people.” has kept the attacks on him coming – and this played a part in Thomas’ ban. Like:

And:

The problem is that Brash just needs to open his mouth now to be called racist.

There are alternative views:

There are important issues facing Māori  in Aotearoa, and they should speak up on them, as many do. Of course there are a wide range of Māori views, and they should all feel free to speak up.

Non-Māori people should not be excluded from these debates – Māori  issues affect every New Zealander.

‘Hating’ someone else’s view does not mean there is hate speech.

I think it is important to, if anything, err towards allowing and enabling challenging views and debate, not shutting it down because someone claims that they are or may be offended.

People like Don Brash have as much right to speak as anyone – and Brash is very well aware of the scrutiny anything he says will get, and will be careful he sticks to carefully expressing his views on  contentious issues .

Jan Thomas:

What I do object to is where um speech that demeans or humiliates or silences groups of people based on a common trait. Ah in other words playing the man and not the ball, ah is ah is something that we don’t accept on a university campus, that everyone should feel that they can express their views in a way that is not um going to be subject to being demeaned or humiliated.

I think that Brash more than most plays the ball and not the man or woman.

Thomas banned the man and dropped the free speech ball. She has demeaned and humiliated herself.

People who try to stop speech they disagree with, whether they call it hate speech, racist or demeaning, end up demeaning their own arguments.

But this debate looks to be far from over, From a statement by the Tertiary Education Union President:

As predicted the “big blunder” at Massey may help free speech

On 7 August when Massey University vice-chancellor cancelled a student political event to prevent Don Brash from speaking I suggested that Massey’s Brash ban may help free speech:

…today when the Vice Chancellor of Massey University banned Don Brash from talking there there has been as near to universal concern and condemnation – and for good reason.

It is an alarming attempt to restrict speech – but this may turn out to be a good thing. It may be the overstep that is needed to encourage a decent debate about who should determine what sort of speech should be effectively censored.

Now Bryce Edwards writes Free speech has been strengthened at Massey

The attempt by the head of Massey University to ban Don Brash from speaking on campus last month has entirely backfired. Instead of Brash being undermined by her actions, it now looks like Vice Chancellor Jan Thomas is in danger of losing her position. What’s more, her actions have ended up reinforcing academic freedoms on campus.

He quotes from a Newstalk ZB interview with history professor Peter Lineham:

“I think it is a big, big blunder… this has put the university in a very bad light” and in terms of the university staff, “I think most people are uneasy about the decision”.

Lineham explained how the Academic Council met yesterday and “grilled” their boss. He gives an idea of how Massey staff feel, saying there was “intense discussion at Academic Board, because she seemed to have started off being very determined to find some way or other to stop Don Brash’s visit, and then retreated from it, and then up came the safety issue, which I think had it been looked at in the cold and hard light of day didn’t really amount to much.”

Perhaps Lineham’s most important point in the interview is about how campus free speech has actually been strengthened as a result of the Brash-ban debacle:

“I think we have recovered free speech a bit because this controversy has strongly marked the New Zealand campuses by the fact that vice chancellors – and this is happening throughout the world – cannot play nanny to the students. That’s a ridiculous role. The students can choose who they want to listen to, and can have whatever views they want. And I think this particular incident has made every vice chancellor realise that they need to keep their hands out of deciding what students should listen to.”

I hope that is the outcome of what was initially a debacle at Massey. I’m not sure it has been put to the test yet. That may happen next month when  Brash has been invited again to speak to students at Massey.

University staff are now openly signalling their unhappiness with the Vice Chancellor (who is akin to a chief executive). Deputy pro-vice chancellor Chris Gallavin has been speaking publicly about staff feelings. Appearing on RNZ yesterday he said:

“There is significant worry, and perhaps even distrust if not anger in the minds of many Massey University staff, that they may have been told an untruth or at very least not the whole story” – see: Don Brash cancellation: Censure motions against vice chancellor.

Gallavin explains the motions that academic staff are considering against Thomas, which will be voted on next month. The RNZ article reports: “Professor Gallavin said he had never heard of a board passing a censure motion against a vice-chancellor and it would send ‘a strong message’ to the Council about the staff’s ‘disappointment’.”

It should also send a strong message to other vice-chancellors and universities.

“Whether she should resign really revolves around that question as to whether she still has the trust and confidence of the staff”.

Should Thomas be pressured to resign? It would be a tough outcome for her, she is just one of a number of people who have tried to restrict free speech on campuses.

But I think a resignation or sacking would be a positive for free speech.

There would probably be a public down side, as it would encourage some to push harder for other resignations and sackings if a university official or academic sought to restrict or adversely influence free speech.

On the plus side, it would send a strong and clear message to universities that free speech is important and matters, especially in universities.

General chat

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Meth house victims being compensated, unfathomable response from Collins, Bridges

People who were unnecessarily evicted from state houses due to extreme testing for methamphetamine contamination will be apologised to and compensated.

Housing NZ to right meth testing wrong

A report by Housing NZ into its response to methamphetamine contamination shows the organisation accepts its approach was wrong and had far reaching consequences for hundreds of people, Housing and Urban Development Minister Phil Twyford said.

“Housing NZ acknowledges that around 800 tenants suffered by either losing their tenancies, losing their possessions, being suspended from the public housing waiting list, negative effects on their credit ratings or, in the worst cases, being made homeless.

“Housing NZ is committed to redressing the hardship these tenants faced. This will be done on a case by case basis and the organisation will look to reimburse costs tenants incurred, and make discretionary grants to cover expenses such as moving costs and furniture replacement.

“They will also receive a formal apology from Housing NZ.

“This is what government accountability looks like. Housing NZ are fronting up, acknowledging they were wrong and putting it right.

“The approach to methamphetamine from 2013 by the government of the day was a moral and fiscal failure. Housing NZ had been instructed by then ministers to operate like a private sector landlord. This led to the wellbeing of tenants being ignored.

“Even as evidence grew that the meth standard was too low, and ministers acknowledged it wasn’t ‘fit for purpose’, the former government continued to demonise its tenants. At any time they could have called for independent advice. Our Government is choosing to do the right thing.

“Under the helm of chief executive Andrew McKenzie, Housing NZ is a very different organisation. It has a new focus on sustaining tenancies, being a compassionate landlord and treating drug addiction as a health issue. This whole sorry saga would not occur under the Housing NZ of today.

“The meth debacle was a systemic failure of government that hurt a lot of people. Our Government is committed to putting this right,” Phil Twyford said.

It was a debacle, and good to see genuine efforts to compensate in part at least.

It is difficult to fathom the National response. Judith Collins:

In Parliament today:

2. Hon JUDITH COLLINS (National—Papakura) to the Minister of Housing and Urban Development: Is it acceptable for Housing New Zealand tenants to smoke methamphetamine in Housing New Zealand houses?

Hon PHIL TWYFORD (Minister of Housing and Urban Development): Methamphetamine is, of course, illegal and is doing immense damage to communities across New Zealand. Our Government does not condone the smoking of methamphetamine anywhere; however, the member needs to understand the counterfactual: it is not acceptable for the Government—for any Government—to throw tenants and their children on to the street and make them homeless. We recognise that making people homeless does not solve a tenant’s problems or help people overcome addiction; it just moves the problem to somewhere else and makes it worse for the person involved, their family, their children, the community, and the taxpayer.

Hon Judith Collins: Where meth testing showed residues exceeding previous standards, can this meth have gotten into Housing New Zealand houses any way other than smoking or baking meth?

Hon PHIL TWYFORD: No, but there was no consistent baseline testing done by Housing New Zealand over those years. There is no way of knowing whether the hundreds of people who were made homeless under this policy had any personal responsibility for the contamination of those houses. Frankly, I’m shocked that the member, who used to be a lawyer, would think that that is OK. Is this the modern, compassionate face of the National Party?

Hon Judith Collins: When he said that “800 tenants suffered by … losing their tenancies,” is he saying that these 800 tenants were all wrongfully evicted from Housing New Zealand houses?

Hon PHIL TWYFORD: It depends what you mean by “wrongfully evicted”. Clearly, some of the 800 people—and I believe many of those people—had their tenancies terminated and were evicted without natural justice, without proper evidence of the case, on the basis of a bogus scientific standard. All of those people—all of the people who were evicted, bar some for whom the standard of contamination was more than the 15 micrograms per 100 centimetres that Sir Peter Gluckman recommended as a sensible standard—were convicted on the basis of a scientific standard that the previous Government allowed to persist for years on the basis of no scientific evidence that exposure to third-hand contamination posed any kind of health risk to anybody

Hon PHIL TWYFORD: There are many contradictory reports swirling around on this issue, but one that I’ve seen that makes a lot of sense is where, and I quote, “people were unfairly removed. If that’s the case, they should be compensated, and Housing New Zealand management should answer for it.” That’s exactly what today’s report does, and that quote is from Judith Collins.

Hon Judith Collins: Will people who smoked meth in Housing New Zealand houses now be given $2,000 to $3,000 compensation?

Hon PHIL TWYFORD: The point of the compensation is to compensate people who wrongly had their tenancies terminated and their possessions destroyed and who, in some cases, were made homeless. Those are the people who will receive a payment under the assistance programme.

Hon Judith Collins: Will people who sold meth in Housing New Zealand houses now be given $2,000 to $3,000 compensation?

Hon PHIL TWYFORD: No.

I have no idea who Collins is trying to appeal to by highlighting a problem that happened under the National-led government.

Simon Bridges joined in as he barked at a number of passing cars today.

Alleging “compensation for meth crooks” is a fairly crooked attack.

GDP and Tax Working Group announcements today

Hamish Rutherford (Stuff): Prime Minister’s mix-up could have led to a much more brutal economics lesson

Jacinda Ardern’s confusion over two sets of figures is understandable, given the volume of material crossing her desk, as well as never-ending negotiations with her governing partners.

But with her control of the Government coming under scrutiny, it was exactly the kind of simple mistake she did not need.

On Tuesday, Ardern was asked a clear and straightforward question about her expectations for “the GDP numbers on Thursday”, economic growth figures due out in two days

Although her answer hinted that she and host Mike Hosking were not exactly on the same page, she acknowledged “the GDP numbers” – listeners would probably believe she was giving a hint that the figures were good. “I’m pretty pleased.”

Instead, she was talking about the Crown’s financial statements – the Government’s books – which are not due to be released for about three weeks, and which few people outside Parliament or bond trading circles care much about.

To some it will seem like a meaningless mistake, but the integrity of market-sensitive information is critical to New Zealand’s reputation as a transparent economy.

No-one gets the inside word, or at least, no-one should, even though lots of people want it. Ardern’s comments left the impression that she not only knew, but that she had not kept the secret.

Whatever the economic growth figures do show this week, they will almost certainly move the currency and other parts of the financial markets, amid speculation that new Reserve Bank governor Adrian Orr is prepared to cut interest rates if the economy slows.

The speed with which Ardern’s office acknowledged the mistake underlines how important it was that the comments were not amplified without clarification.

Peter Dunne: It’s time to bury the capital gains tax

All of which raises the question as to why the capital gains issue keeps getting raised, especially since the arguments in favour from both a revenue gathering and efficiency perspective are not that strong.

After all, given both the long and variable lead times involved between the purchase and sale of taxable assets, a comprehensive capital gains tax is at best likely to be a somewhat unreliable and unpredictable contributor to annual revenues. Advice I received when Minister of Revenue was that it could be over a decade from the time of introducing a broader based capital gains tax until it produced any significant revenue gain for the Government.

Also, it has been long accepted that the family home would have to be exempted from any such regime, further diminishing its likely impact. Even in the rental sector, the impact would likely be negative for tenants, with landlords boosting rents to offset any negative tax impact when those properties are sold.

 

Little ducking for cover over changes to bail, parole and sentencing laws

Being ‘tough on crime’, prison numbers, and law and order have long been a political football, with successive governments pandering to populist demands for fear of being seen as responsible for awful crimes.

The Labour-led government has an ambitious goal of reversing the prison population by 30%, and have already had some success in reducing them slightly (following on from initiatives started under the previous government), but some difficult decisions will have to be made to come close to meeting their target.

If bail or parole laws and sentencing directives are relaxed it will only take one high profile crime to be committed by someone who otherwise could have been contained in prison for the political football to become a head high tackle on the Minister of Justice and the government responsible.

It is a lot less dramatic and more difficult to quantify to promote that recidivism may be reduced and crimes may have been prevented by better treatment and rehabilitation of offenders.

David Fisher (NZH): Andrew Little ducks for cover as National forecasts tragedy from justice reform

The battle lines are drawn on crime and justice reform and Minister of Justice Andrew Little is in a bunker.

It’s not a great place for a first-term minister but the National Party has driven him there by virtue of how it has stolen a march on precious territory over contested ground.

The struggle Little faces is over possible changes to bail, parole and sentencing laws.

Labour had pledged to cut the prison population by 30 per cent in 15 years and Little has talked of possible changes to those laws.

To meet that target, experts in the field agree those laws will need to be changed.

But Fisher says that Little has been avoiding talking about how this might be done, giving Opposition MPs free shots.

Interviews with leader Simon Bridges and Corrections spokesman David Bennett have seen the National Party politicians repeatedly refer to the Government considering changes to bail, parole and sentencing laws.

It was a possibility Little raised early in the debate around criminal justice reform.

While he might not wish to talk about it now, the National Party will do so – and its message is in lock-step across MPs.

Bridges: “He has to reduce the prison population by a third because he’s not building the prison beds and that really leads inevitably to a softening up of the bail, sentencing, parole laws.”

Bennett: “If they are going to relax those bail and sentencing laws and parole laws they should front up to the NZ public now.”

In forecasting those changes, those politicians have forecast what they say is the human cost if those changes are made. There has been no evidence presented to support these statements.

Bridges: “If the bail-sentencing-parole laws are softened up, there will be many more victims of crime that (Little) and Jacinda Ardern will be responsible for.”

Bennett: “They’re talking about relaxing the laws which would be to early release offenders. They are going to release criminals into the community and put victims and other potential victims at risk”.

Bridges: “If Andrew Little gets his head on bail, sentencing and parole changes, the consequences will be dire. I have no doubt if Andrew Little gets his head there will be an uproar in New Zealand over time as the victims of crime become more and more apparent.”

Bennett: “What they are looking at doing is reducing those rules and they’ve said many a time that is their intention, and if they do it then that increases the risk because there are more people out.”

Over the past 20 years, both Labour and National have responded to a public “tough on crime” appetite by ramping up bail, parole and sentencing laws.

It’s going to be very difficult for Little to get the balance right if he makes changes to the law. He will be hit with any failures, whether justified or not.

And he also faces a challenge getting coalition support, with NZ First already pulling the 3 strikes repeal rug from under him.

With Bridges’ past experience as a lawyer and  also prosecutor it would have been good to see him working positively with Little to find better ways of dealing with crime and punishment without increasing risks, but he seems to have chosen a partisan path instead. That’s a real shame.

There’s a lot at stake, but as usual on law and order issues it looks like politics and populism will as difficult to beat as crime and prison numbers.

General chat

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