About robglennie000

Kia Ora This blog is my vent for releasing my frustrations with the state of New Zealand, the New Zealand Government and things going on in New Zealand society, as well as around the world. I post daily at 0900 New Zealand time. Please feel free to leave comments. Please also feel free to follow my blog. Best Regards, Rob

The wrongness of unifying Industry Training Organizations

It has been announced that there are significant – and controversial – changes looming for New Zealand’s tertiary education sector. And as I seek to enrol once more at a tertiary institution (Massey University), casting my eye across the landscape of New Zealand tertiary education I cannot help but wonder whether this is not simply a case of change for the sake of change.

I studied at the Open Polytechnic from 2017-2018 to complete a Graduate Diploma of Sustainable Management. My experience with the Open Polytechnic was very positive. The teaching staff are competent; queries I had were answered in good time and respectfully and I was appropriately resourced for the study that I was expected to complete.

Perhaps it is not surprising that I am therefore alarmed that the Minister of Education is proposing to merge all 12 Industry Training Organizations (I.T.O.’s) and 16 Polytechnics and Institutes of Technology (I.T.P.’s) into a single massive organization. Also not surprisingly, there are numerous agencies and industry sector groups that are genuinely concerned about what the proposals of the Minister, Chris Hipkins, mean for them and for the sector.

In fairness there are some institutions that need a significant rev up in terms of their conduct and one or two might as a consequence find themselves not able to satisfactorily meet the demands realistically expected of them. These would be the weakest links and as such, possibly made to close. But I cannot support the merger of all of the Polytechnics and Wananga into a single mega polytechnic. To me this is consistent with the old adage about putting all of the eggs into one basket. But it goes further in potentially causing job losses at established campuses that we cannot afford in a sector where understaffing is already chronic. It also smacks of another problem with which New Zealand unfortunately already has much experience with in other industries: centralization.

Instead I believe that urban areas with 100,000 people or more should have one Polytechnic. That would be Auckland, Manukau, the Napier-Hastings urban area, Hamilton, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin. On top of that, a polytechnic that covers all distance and remote learning, which on current performance would be the Open Polytechnic. Similarly a condensation of I.T.P.’s might be necessary as well, but before that happens the Minister should reopen the proposals for further public consultation including listening to the very people for whom these institutions exist in the first place, and without which, they are nothing: the students.

Ministers and bureaucrats can have all the ideas in the world about how the teaching framework in New Zealand should look, but if it is not benefiting the very people it was set up to, then there is a problem. In other parts of the education sector we are seeing bad policy made without student input by previous governments starting to unravel, and with it their education is potentially unravelling as well. Which is not a good thing for any Minister of Education to have happen.

Time to overhaul name suppression laws

Recent proceedings in courts have laid bare the issue of how up to date our name suppression laws are. From the foreign media violating name suppression orders around the suspected murderer of Grace Millane to Joanne Harrison who used name suppression to continue her offending, the circumstances might be different, but the risk of a miscarriage of justice increases dramatically when abused.

On one hand when dealing with cases where naming the offender risks harming the victim, such as father harms son/daughter, there is a good and obvious case for name suppression. On the other hand if one is dealing with a person who has a litany of serious crimes in the past and the judge has decided that somehow despite the past record, that person deserves name suppression, then there is a clear problem.

Let us look at a few examples. One of the most recent is Joanne Harrison, who has been sent to jail for large scale fraudulent use of taxpayer dollars. A recidivist offender, whilst under name suppression, Mrs Harrison went on to commit even bigger crimes, taking advantage of the fact that no one knew of her or her history. Now we are only just becoming aware of the scale of Mrs Harrison’s offending and the impact that it would have had because another judge has finally decided that the offending is too grave for the public to not know about.

Just before Christmas last year, an English woman on a working visa to New Zealand went missing just after arriving in Auckland. A few days later she was found dead in the Waitakere Ranges. It was a homicide. Not long after that the Police arrested someone on suspicion of murdering Grace Millane. Then something illogical happened: the Judge imposed name suppression on New Zealand media, but the media from other countries, namely Britain ignored it and so did social media. Within a short period of time the whole internet knew who had been arrested. This drew criticism from the Minister of Justice Andrew Little and the New Zealand Bar Association.

But here is the problem. He is only SUSPECTED of murdering Ms Millane. Yet by the weight of public opinion he was tried, convicted and sentenced by the public on social media on the same day he appeared in court to enter his plea and apply for name suppression. The trial is not due to start until 04 November 2019. We now run the risk that this person will never get a fair trial because the public are already convinced beyond reasonable doubt he did it.

If we approach the problem from another angle, sometimes the Judge is confronted with a highly affluent figure who has spent considerable money on hiring a good lawyer. Despite the severity of the charges the affluent figure might get their name suppression simply because the lawyer knows enough about the legal ins and outs to find a way of justifying name suppression and does so. Here this can become a major problem, because let us suppose for example it involves a large sum of money that they were responsible for the appropriate use of, it disappears and later on turns up in private accounts. The defendant shows little understanding or remorse for what they did and only appears regretful that s/he was caught in the first place. The defendant continues to pose a risk that the public is not aware of because money was able to buy name suppression.

I am thus not of the opinion that name suppression laws should be completely dumped, but I think there is a strong case for radically overhauling how we apply them. Perhaps all media entering a court room should sign an agreement stipulating that whilst covering the proceedings they agree they are subject to New Zealand laws including judge rulings on the case

In the case of Grace Millane if there comes a point where the judge is convinced the prospects of a fair trial are wrecked, no one gets justice. Not Grace. Not the defendant. Nor her family. No one.

And that is not okay.


Ministers hiding from the truth?

I have been watching the Chernobyl miniseries, which is based on the 1986 meltdown of Reactor No. 4 at Chernobyl nuclear power station in Ukraine, when it was part of the former U.S.S.R. Constantly coming out of the series is the determination of the Communist government to cover up the disaster even though the scale of it makes that impossible, even though the radioactive cloud drifting across Europe has been detected in multiple countries.

The lack of transparency and the corruption within the Communist system was a major contributor to its eventual downfall in 1989. It took their ineptness at Chernobyl in a rigid system hell bent on preservation at all cost including locking up those who knew too much to start its unravelling.

Midway through its first term in office, the number of inept Ministers in the Labour-led Government of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is startling. And as National looks at the 2020 election as a chance to take back the Beehive, we see them shying away from taking questions. We see them ducking behind the public service officials who are meant to keep them up to speed.

Fortunately New Zealand could not be more different from the Cold War era U.S.S.R. It is a nation that enjoys very high ratings with Transparency International, which focuses on the accountability of elected officials, the ability to obtain information and the freedom of the press. Using a scale of 1-100 where 100 is completely transparent, T.I. have graded countries around the world. The current rating is 2. Only Denmark has a higher score. However, both countries have slipped from a ratings a few years ago in the very low 90’s. Last year New Zealand topped the list at 89 and in 2016, 90. Russia and Ukraine by contrast only scored 29 in 2018.

Whilst this is still a very good score for New Zealand and one worth celebrating, at the same time the gradual downwards drift needs correcting. New Zealand continues to maintain a somewhat laissez faire approach to oversight of its authorities and there is room for improvement in terms of having a watchdog overseeing the Privacy Commission and Human Rights Commission, among others who have been dogged in recent years by conduct completely unbecoming of such important bodies.

Recently we have seen the sort of activity that might be behind the gradual downwards drift in our score. At Chernobyl we saw nuclear scientists trying to persuade Communist officials more intent on saving their own skin and the system they worked under about the grave threat Chernobyl posed. They were constantly monitored, threatened and on occasion, even detained. It would lead the chief scientist Valery Legasov to take his own life, rocking the Communist apparatus in a way even the hardliners struggled to ignore.

In New Zealand we have seen Ministers ducking for cover. Phil Twyford is the prime example, as a man who knows Kiwi Build is a failure but instead of being upfront and saying so has retreated from interviews about it. A second example is Shane Jones. What was he doing lobbying Minister of Immigration on behalf of Stan Semenoff and the transport company he owns so they could get accredited employer status and employ Filipino workers? And a third will be the Minister of Immigration himself and the Karl Sroubek snafu where a Czech man wanted by Czech Republic authorities fled to New Zealand, claiming he would die if he went back to the Republic.

So far none of them come close to matching the ineptness of Comrade Dyatlov who had control of Reactor No. 4 on that fatal night. Nor do the consequences involve the threat of getting the KGB involved. But they do involve massive loss of personal reputation. They do raise questions about how in control of her Government Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern really is, and a failure to improve might be the downfall of this Labour-led Government just as Chernobyl probably caused the downfall of Communism.


Warnings of “revolution” if gun buy back promises not honoured

The owner of an ammunition sales business believes New Zealand will be ripe for revolution if the Government does not honour its gun buy back promises. Paul Clark, who owns New Zealand Ammunition, has told a journalist that there is the risk of violent reaction by gun owners who think the buy back scheme is short changing them.

When interviewed by journalist Lisa Owen and asked what he meant by revolution, Mr Clark responded that it meant literally that. He was sure that there is is a high probability of a physical revolution in New Zealand by gun owners. He went to say that many were planning to skirt the law by hiding their weapons.

I have no knowledge of Mr Clark or his ammunition business, but I find his commentary consistent with that of firearm activists who think that the Government is out to ban all guns. This is extremely dangerous, misleading and if you ask me slightly paranoid in that it is consistent with some of the commentary one would expect from an organization like the National Rifle Association of America.

And what on earth would one want to do with an AR-15 anyway? The sole purpose of AR-15 type weapons is to kill on a large and indiscriminate scale, in the way that the Christchurch mosques attacker, the Nevada hotel gun man, the Sandy Hook elementary school gun man.

Maybe Mr Clark is just sounding a warning that has been passed on to him. As one selling munitions he would be expected to know a bit about the clientele who come to him for their ammunition needs. Maybe there are people on the rifle ranges around the country who honestly feel threatened by this. It is true that the Government did move with almost indecent haste to push legislation through Parliament, but that was the time to do it, when political parties (A.C.T. aside) were united by disgust. And yes, there is more legislation coming, but that was signalled clearly at the time that the first tranche was pushed through in April.

These people whoever they are need to understand though that New Zealand changed irrevocably on 15 March 2019. 51 perfectly innocent people were brutally slaughtered in a callous and cowardly act that New Zealanders honestly thought only happened overseas. Many of us were absolutely horrified at the way the N.R.A., and certain overseas politicians tried to make it about their gun agenda when they have nothing of relevance to New Zealand. We suddenly realized our firearm laws were not up to scratch. We found out that no accurate records of who has what and how they obtained it in terms of firearms, and that our customs are not able to do their jobs adequately because of chronic underfunding and resourcing.

I also fail to understand where he gets the idea he might not be able to take this to court. This is not about banning ones basic rights to challenge unjust laws, but about making sure that there is no prospect of another 15 March 2019 type incident ever happening in New Zealand again.

Questions about the banking sector after ANZ chief’s departure

In 2008 when the banking sector was reeling from the effects of 32 separate New Zealand financial companies imploding, and much larger implosions happening in the United States, there were calls for bankers to be tried for fraud and jailed. United States President Barak Obama campaigned on banking reform, which he then got Senator Elizabeth Warren to enact. Democrats and the little man applauded, but the least repentant banking corporates cried foul. The rest of the world was cautiously optimistic.

Ten years later against a linger backdrop of economic uncertainty, with many of the factors that caused the 2006-2009 meltdown, it is New Zealand’s turn to question our banking sector. With A.N.Z.’s practices under the spot light how many other banks have questionable goings on in their back offices?

I agree with Sam Stubbs, who has called for a banking sector Royal Commission of Inquiry. The extent to which Mr Hisco appears to be out of touch with the rank and file employees such as the Branch Managers, the Tellers and so forth who are the public face of A.N.Z. is quite telling. Also notable is how the Chair of A.N.Z. and former Prime Minister John Key appears to think that Mr Hisco has been properly held to account and that the penalties he has accrued are somehow sufficient considering what he has done.

Mr Key denies it has had anything to do with the dressing down that A.N.Z. was handed by the Reserve Bank for not having enough capital in May. He said that Mr Hisco would take responsibility for it if he were in a position to do so.

This idea of a major bank not having enough in capital in the event of an emergency, I think quite a few people inside and outside of A.N.Z. and indeed the banking sector would find quite troubling. It suggests to me at a quite basic level in the same way a ship at sea wants to be sure that it has enough fuel to get back to port, someone or some several people who had significant monitoring responsibilities were somehow not doing their job.

I imagine that A.N.Z. rank and file employees would be quite angry with how the matter has been handled. Yes they might not have had the same entitlements and responsibilities as Mr Hisco, but I am sure that if any of them did that they would be fired point blank and not be entitled to any financial compensation, or other supportive measures. Mr Hisco, whilst relinquishing about $6.4 million in equity will be paid a full 12 months salary, which is dramatically more than the $0 that most people get paid when they get fired.

Yes, Mr Key and his Board might think they have done the right thing in letting Mr HIsco go, and in that respect, yes they have. However the $2 million golden handshake, the fact that there might be much more than what has been let on that he misappropriated all point to a bigger story than either Mr Key was willing to tell the media about, and/or which Mr Hisco was willing to tell Mr Key and the Board of A.N.Z. about.

It is hard not to feel sorry for the ordinary staff member at A.N.Z. just trying to do their job as best as they can to the standards expected of them, who must feel like they have been ratted on from the highest echelons in the company. They surely would not have anything like what Mr Hisco got to support them in their post A.N.Z. career, which by my guess on the current estimated income for a bank teller would take them about 40-50 years to earn.