Talking about bold policy, here is mine


Listening to Labour and National go at each other, both appear to be parties trying to land big hits against each other but only seemingly able to land superficial blows. Neither party seems to have a king hit policy or idea that the other one cannot respond to.

I have said before as have others that Labour need to release some bold policy in order to draw in voters. I find it hard to believe that politicians can be so bereft of ideas as to only think about ones that last to the next election. One might therefore ask, okay if you are so sure that politicians are bereft of ideas, what great ones do you have?

When a political party talks they have a short period of time to get the key points of their policy platform across to the media. Keep it clear and keep it snappy – bullet points are best in a print format. I will be focussing on the following over the next couple of weeks:

  • Constitution
  • Social Welfare
  • Jobs
  • Environment
  • Health

Reform does not always have to be economic. Constitutional and/or legal reform can have equally significant effects, and change anything from the structure of the legal system, to a nations constitutional arrangements and include such areas as type of Government, election frequency, a single House of Representatives or a bi-cameral arrangement.

At some point in the near future, possibly in the next couple of years and certainly in the next two decades, New Zealand will have to have this discussion. I would personally much prefer it to happen now on our own terms, so that if in case a need to defer for a bit longer arises, we can establish an appropriate temporary framework that can be dismantled or added to.

If it happens on terms that are not ours, that would suggest something major has happened, such as the reigning sovereign Queen Elizabeth II has died and the public are not happy with whomever became King. This could be problematic because politicians, whilst wanting to appear in tune with the voting public can often find themselves wanting to make changes when there is no public appetite, or the public want changes, but they insist it is just a vocal minority stirring up trouble.

What I suggest is not new, but I think it is visionary enough to be a departure from the discourse currently emanating from politicians and political commentators. Sir Geoffrey Palmer, former Labour Prime Minister, has likewise suggested that it is time to consider a formal constitution.

I agree with Sir Geoffrey. It is time to hold a binding referendum on the subject. It must be a binding referendum because ignoring it may spark a constitutional crisis of a magnitude not known to have existed in this country. It must also be binding because for all the transparency and relatively smooth functioning of the court system, there are some glaring loop holes, such as (but not limited to):

  • No clear cut legal mechanism for impeaching corrupted representatives who are not fit to serve another minute in office
  • Insufficient entrenching or other legal protection ensuring the key planks of our constitutional arrangement such as the Human Rights Act 1986, the Bill of Rights Act 1990 and the Constitution Act, 1986

I can see a time coming when support for a Republic will grow substantially. This is something I personally support as well, but for reasons ranging from love of the Monarchy, through to concerns about Treaty of Waitangi recognition must be addressed before this can happen and given the contentious nature of becoming a Republic is well known, only a binding referendum can give the result the due legitimacy.

It is probably too late to go back now, but New Zealand should have gone through a binding referendum phase to determine whether or not the country should have a Supreme Court.

So, this is one of my big policies. The extent to which it can play out will be determined by the outcome of the referendum. I envisage that if the answer is NO, then legislation be passed that sets in place the mechanism for revisiting something that believe will eventually have to happen one way or the other.

Addressing banking sector concerns in N.Z.


I remember the onset of the 2008 Global Financial Crisis all too clearly. In the space of about two years 31 separate New Zealand finance companies crashed and burned, taking about N.Z.$3 billion worth of savings with them. The crash of so many companies and the resulting fallout cost numerous jobs, led to criminal trials for fraudulent activity and caused a loss of trust in banks. Nine years later, not having learnt much from the previous crash New Zealand, like the world at large is at risk of another, possibly bigger, crash.

The causes of the 2008 Global Financial Crisis are well documented. In the United States lax banking regulations led to the failure of Fannie Mae’s, Freddie Mac’s, Lehman Brothers amongst others . Hundreds of billions of dollars was wiped from the value of the U.S. economy when Lehman Brothers collapsed. The bailout plan authorized by U.S. President George W. Bush cost about U.S.$700 billion to enact. Following these collapses President Barak Obama passed legislation called Dodd Frank Act which enabled large scale reform of the banking sector, in terms of transparency, tightening up reporting requirements and protecting whistle blowers.

In New Zealand the following are just some of the financial institutions that failed in 2006-2010 (N.Z.$)¹:

  • Capital Merchant Finance ($190 million)
  • South Canterbury Finance ($1.6 billion)
  • Provincial Finance ($296 million with $273 million recovered)
  • Bridgecorp ($467 million)

¹67 went into liquidation or receivership, or entered moratoria all up between 2006 and 2012

I believe that legislation needs to be passed in two respects to bring accountability to the banking sector, but also institute a better code of practice than the one that exists. Elsewhere I have mentioned the need for better whistle blower protection. This is to ensure that the fate of whistle blowers at the Ministry of Transport who exposed fraudster Joanne Harrison and lost their jobs for doing so, is not repeated.

But perhaps the biggest reforms that I think need to be made are to how individuals enter and exit the financial industry, and the range of tools that can be used in dealing with significant breaches. We have the Financial Markets Authority investigating significant breaches, which is well and fine. But, given the size of some of the aforementioned collapses and the fact that individuals who had leading roles in precipitating said collapses were handed what I think were very light sentences, I think the law needs an overhaul.

For small fraud (less than N.Z.$250,000), claims can be dealt with in the District Court and the High Court deals with larger claims. We saw out of the court trials arising from the collapses of companies like Bridgecorp that in many cases the sentences were too light. The sentences did not appear to take into account ill gotten assets such expensive cars. Nor did they appear to stop the defendants from working in the industry again. The sentences should be proportionate to the size of the losses incurred by the investors. Such a scale could look like this:

  • Category E (dealt with in District Court) up to $250,000 = suspension of trading license + fine (up to $250,000) or jail sentence (up to 2 years)
  • Category D – $250,000 to $10 million = loss of financial trading licence + confiscation of luxury assets or fine (up to $500,000) or jail sentence (up to 5 years)
  • Category C – $10 million to $100 million = loss of financial trading licence + confiscation of luxury assets + fine (up to $1 million) or jail sentence (up to 15 years)
  • Category B – $100 million to $250 million = loss of financial trading licence + plus fine (up to $2 million) + jail (up to 25 years)
  • Category A – $250 million+ = loss of licence + fine (up to $4 million) + jail (up to 40 years) + confiscation of luxury assets + loss of passport

Sound harsh?

Not as harsh as thousands of investors having their retirement plans and anything that they might have been relying on their investments to fund now having nothing to show for their efforts. Not as harsh as hundreds of people working for these forms in good faith finding themselves without a job because of the collapse. Nor as harsh as any community finding that sponsorship of community events and projects have just gone up in smoke.

National not serious about crime


When one thinks of a conservative party, they think of a party that is normally strong on law and order. It will be a party that spends more on the police, normally has a harder line on sentencing and talks about rights of the victims.

It all sounds well and good, if in the case of National, it were actually true. If National were serious about crime, then why is there this long litany of armed hold ups that have all been carried out in Auckland since 01 January 2017?

In January:

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11781928

In February:

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11804802

In March:

http://www.indianweekender.co.nz/Pages/ArticleDetails/7/7720/New-Zealand/South-Auckland-Superette-robbed-at-gunpoint

In April:

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11842093

http://www.radionz.co.nz/news/national/329327/armed-robbery-at-auckland-tab

In May:

http://www.newstalkzb.co.nz/on-air/larry-williams-drive/audio/detective-inspector-faamanuia-vaaelua-armed-robbery-in-south-auckland-sickening/

http://www.stuff.co.nz/auckland/93191139/armed-hold-up-at-tab-in-pakuranga-south-auckland

In June

It seems that not a single week goes past without a new armed hold up happening somewhere in Auckland. It might be Mangere or Manukau. It might be somewhere on the North Shore or out west in Waitakere. The target might be a family run dairy. It might be a superette or a bar – the targeting seems indiscriminate.

The victims are understandably fearful for their lives. It is quite a violating thought to know that you, in the course of your every day work life were subject to an attack on your premises by thugs. They might have been looking for cash or cigarettes to sell on the black market. Whatever the case the outcome is the same – another one for the crime stats, a legitimate business violated and the owner/operator scared to death.

So, this is what has happened in Auckland alone since June. It does not include any offences reported in Hamilton, Dunedin, Wellington, Christchurch, or anywhere else.

The causes can be debated, though one can fairly conclusively suggest that increased taxes on tobacco products are at least in part to blame. The black market is thriving.

So, just stop and think about this when you decide who to vote for in September. Who do you think will try to address the causes of these offences – National? Labour? New Zealand First? Greens?

And more importantly, WHY?

Christchurch social housing and Manus/Nauru Island Detention Centres


Manus Island and Nauru Island. Two equatorial islands. One is a part of Papua New Guinea (Manus Island) and the other an island nation 21km². Each with a Detention Centre on them. Two detention centres that are home to a mix of refugees fleeing some of the worlds worst conflicts, asylum seekers being hounded by their Government and criminal overflow from Australia’s prisons.

The environment is tropical, with high heat and humidity, tropical downpours, snakes. Because of the sandy soils of the island, there is little holding capacity in the soil for groundwater, which means when drought breaks out there is severe and sometimes crippling water shortages.

The mix of detainees who inhabit the facilities on top of these soils should never have been here in the first place. They occupy immigration facilities set up by Australian authorities, determined that no asylum seeker, refugee or other person who did not arrive through official processes should ever reach the Australian mainland.

Broadspectrum are a subsidiary of Spanish company Ferrovial. They run the Manus and Nauru Island facilities. According to the Broadspectrum website, the company has the responsibility for providing social welfare services to Manus Island Detention Centre inmates.

Broadspectrum are therefore implicated in the operation of two Detention Centres where grave and sustained human rights abuses against vulnerable inmates have gone on under their watch. Indeed the establishment and operation of the Detention Centres themselves are significant abuses, which include physical and sexual abuse of inmates. Some of the allegations are severe enough to have progressed to formal allegations.

Now, the same Broadspectrum wants to hold contracts for the running of social housing in Christchurch. 2,500 houses are thought be for sale, despite Housing Minister, Amy Adams saying that they cannot be sold off further.

It is wholly inappropriate for a company linked to such grave abuses as those that are going on on Nauru and Manus Islands to be in any way involved in social housing. It is still more so that they seek to hold contracts for housing in a city which is recovering from significant trauma. Its whose most needy residents have enough socio-economic related stress in their lives, never mind whether or not their new housing provider can be trusted.

Broadspectrum also holds contracts with Auckland Transport, and further contracts with Transpower that are worth hundreds of millions of dollars. It subcontracts security work out to the Wilson Group, which in New Zealand includes First Security and Wilson Parking. Wilson Security, which is part of the Wilson Group are complicit in the abuses that have occurred at these two detention centres, by virtue of some of their staff knowing what was going on and failing to act to stop it.

Corporate dollars should not come ahead of human rights at any point in time. Broadspectrum made 45% of its total revenue in 2016 from Manus and Nauru Island Detention Centres, which totaled A.U.$1.646 billion. At the same time there were reports from the social welfare workers at both facilities that some of their clients were talking about suicide and included children.

Based on this would you trust Broadspectrum with social housing in New Zealand?

Harawira completely wrong about executing Chinese drug dealers


The comments by former Maori M.P. and Mana Party leader Hone Harawira that New Zealand should execute methamphetamine dealers from China are completely wrong.

There is no doubt that New Zealand is a nation that has a major drug problem. Methamphetamine, cocaine, heroin, cannabis – all of them are serious contributors to crime, declines in important socio-economic indicators, affect peoples ability to get jobs. Cannabis is perhaps the least problematic of these, but all need a comprehensive policy for dealing with all of them. It needs to deal with how we educate people, treat those on it or who are a victim of it, those who have recovered but now have problems finding jobs.

Much of the crime wave of violent offences striking New Zealand at the moment is likely to have to do with drugs – most likely finding ways of funding drug addictions, or being able to source money for paying back drug debts.

However executing Chinese methamphetamine dealers is the wrong way to go about it and sends the wrong message. I would however go one step further and say that Mr Harawira is completely wrong about using the death penalty at all. It is nothing less than state sanctioned murder and there is no justification in my book for it.

Whilst the mechanisms that I am about to mention might already exist in law, how well are they used for their intended purpose? Are they even used? I am talking about:

  • Being permanently denied the right to hold a passport – no country is going to want another nations violent criminals
  • Confiscation of 100% of property gained using drug money as well as and in particular any cash – use the proceeds to help the victims with court/medical/other costs
  • Being subject to police monitoring even after the sentences are finished and the corrections department is obligated to release the prisoner/s in question
  • Non New Zealanders are deported and permanently barred from entering the country

If these instruments exist, how well are they used? There is little point in changing the law if they are a) well used and b) effective.

Part of Mr Harawira’s political repertoire has always been to speak his mind by saying provocative things, and then defend them and there is no doubt in this case, he has achieved that. It is a piece of race baiting in some respects by singling out Chinese dealers, and ignoring home grown ones and their supply chains. Perhaps Mr Harawira means well. It is certainly a departure from what I expected him to say on the issue – I was not expecting him to advocate for a reduction in penalties, but violating human rights statutes that New Zealand has ratified is not acceptable in any shape or form.