Political reports and reaction from the Parliamentary Precinct, Wellington.

The last day of Submissions on the section 59 bill are tomorrow

This Thursday is the last day of oral submissions on Sue Bradford's (Greens, List)

Crime (Abolition of Force as a Justification for Child Discipline) Amendment Bill.

Go and find out what the media never reports on. You'll be suprised.

Justice and Electoral SubCommittee 9.45 am - 11.30 am

Room 4, Parliament Buildings.

Hear some of the last of the 300+ oral submissions being heard on this Bill by the Justice and Electoral Committee.

Khandallah debate on section 59

The section 59 debate stopped by at Khandallah last night. A debate hosted by the local Presbyterian Church featured local MP Peter Dunne (United Future, Ohariu-Belmont), Sue Bradford (Greens, List) and Family Integrity Leader Craig Smith.

My word of the night was fascination. There was a part of me that wanted to see a genuine, even handed debate. I was robbed of that. Entering the Church hall, I found myself accosted by a proud woman behind a modest table, offering me pamphlet after pamphlet of Family integrity's postion on smacking and section 59.

It was an uncomfortable wait at first, people were trying their very best to keep themselves restrained. It was pretty clear by now that the meeting hall with a capacity around 50 was going to be full to the brim.

Regarding the speakers, each took their first comments off a script, Bradford rattling hers off like it was just another day at the office, offering the same arguments in support of her bill. I was interested in her criticism of fundamentalist groups like Family Integrity, in comparison to the mainstream churches, which have been supporters of repeal. She also was the only speaker to mention in their opening remarks any reference to the scriptures, taking time to highlight the inconsistencies between the old and new testaments.

She had some very key observations regarding the issue, trying to reconcile the removal of the rule of thumb (or legislation to that effect), but not legislation tacitly condoning physical violence on children: “I despair that parents see their rights to physical assault on their children transcends the rights of their children…”

She closed her remarks with her own approach to parenting (as a mother of five) as being one from a position of peace and love in a nurturing environment.

Craig Smith spoke next, choosing to almost replicate his oral submission to the Select Committee earlier that day. “This is not a bill to repeal anti smacking…this is a bill that is anti-parental authority”. He elaborated on the current legislation; nothing that ‘reasonable’ and ‘correction’ are important elements of section 59, detailing the context in which he believes that physical punishment is ok. (It should be noted that his organisation released the pamphlets detailing why the bible says “why we need to smack, what we use to smack [and] how we do it” but we will come back to this later). Repeal will according to Smith, “strip parents of their legal status” to use “parental hands-on authority” (a euphemism for physical punishment).

Smith could not see that there was any other effective means to discipline children: “how does any parent discipline their children without the use of force…there isn’t any!” and left with a sharp attack against the pro repeal movement, nothing that in spite of public surveys in the media showing “80% support against repeal of section 59, the pro repeal lobby knows better…they have the moral leadership of Joseph Stalin”

Smith literally left his religion on the table, choosing not to utter one reference about the scriptures, but planting a bible in front of him. Strange, considering that his organisation was giving out material that used the scriptures to support his arguments and after being asked twice by the audience (one of whom was the local pastor), he finally explained his stance, and one that he considered was not related to the repeal of section 59. It was as though he lacked the courage to speak in a church about his own faith in positioning himself on the wider issue of violence in the home.

Peter Dunne called upon “his old friend: common sense”, speaking candidly (and only as himself, United Future are having a free vote on the bill), feeling that the status quo was leaving too many cases of child abuse under the radar, but cautious as to the current bill as it is, only committing to support it, if he sees that it will actually make a difference (he initially voted down the bill at the first reading, citing that the “State should stay out of the household” and that the bill would be “neither practical nor effective”). Like Bradford, Dunne found any attempt to define reasonable force as “pointless” but was better than Bradford in detailing the fear of criminalising parents, and the need to “protect parents acting in good faith in normal situations”. He was upset at how the extremes had been given so much attention: “one shudders to think of one’s company that they seem to keep”

When public questions came around, the audience was clearly anti-repeal, featuring children who were happy to be beaten (I found out that they were with Family Integrity afterwards). Several people could not wait for the microphone, choosing to speak immediately about their faith, and one person commenting “god beats me up when I do bad”, and others whose questions where clearly pre scripted, including a venomous attack against Bradford on the issue of abortion: “how can you come here and talk about protecting children, when you support the murder of fifty children each year?”

Chester Burrows (National, Wanganui) as a member of the audience, took several minutes to explain his views on the subject. Burrows, Dunne and Bradford never seems so agreeable on how to move on the bill, suggesting some amendments (not defining “reasonable force” though)…surely that would have been something that the meeting could have picked as a topic instead.

I was dismayed at the lack of courage that Smith had in being clear about his faith, and the audience’s impatience…but it was a fascinating night.

UPDATE: The night was recorded for Maureen Garing's Spiritual Outlook on National Radio, September 17 at 5pm. Tune in for it.

Not again

The "she was asking for it" defence has crossed the chamber and now seems to be obiter:

"They were silly, vulnerable and very drunk and the major complainant was clearly flirtatious," he said.

"This girl was partly the author of her own misfortune. She managed to get herself drunk."

So let me get this straight: if I get someone drunk and they then act drunk, that's an invitation for sexual adventure? You can't have it both ways! either binge drinking is bad because amongst other things you lose self control, or there is no excuse for enticing anyone against their will for any act, in this case sex. Especially with illegal drugs!

Get on Down to the ACC Meeting

Auckland City Council meeting

Auckland Town Hall, 6pm.

Here's a chance to hear a number of speakers on the issue of section 59 before the ACC decide on a motion supporting Sue Bradford's (Greens, List) Bill to repeal the section from statute.

According to the NZH, Former Children's Commissioner Ian Hassall and Maxim Institute legal counsel Alex Penk will be at the meeting, debating the alternate positions.

If people are in the city, and want to see something more concrete than just a mud-slinging match, I suggest you turn up and see what happens.

Also, I cannot go (although I wish I could) so it would be nice if I heard what it was like afterwards

Just a quick thought.

Did anyone else pick up on the serendipity of a New Governor-General and a New Maori King in less than three days?

Why wait?

Why did the Governement wait to respond to the National-Greens deal on rates?

New Zealand First was going to get their deal with the Government in exchange for their support against Rodney Hide's Bill (Epsom, ACT), and there was

Was somebody thinking it could be used as a means to dilute the focus on Field or Parliamentary electon spending?

An interesting idea, but those topics were never going to abate with National. And this delay in the annoucement only begs the question: did the Government get sideswiped as to how far it would go in the media.

Just great. A reactive government, instead of a proactive one!

Sophia set's it straight,

Here's a thorough piece on child welfare in New Zealand. I think the paragraph at the end really recognises the political reality.

Te Arikinui Te Atairangikaahu, 1931 - 2006

"Ka mate tino tangata, tena ka rewa mai"

I just heard on Maori TV that the Maori Queen has passed on.

A decent first report has come via RNZ (although, I always wonder if like in the US, NZ media organisations have a piece like this waiting in the wings

Today I read two articles which in itself underline the largest flaw in a proportional war: the humanity in the soldier (or its lack thereof)

A fascinating op-ed in the Boston Globe, in response to a NYP article on the west being "too soft in war" brings back that notion that 'no war is proportional or merciful: our enemies will not grant us that comfort upon us, so why should we upon then?'

This comment was incredibly blunt, but myopic:

"What if liberal democracies have now evolved to a point where they can no longer wage war effectively because they have achieved a level of humanitarian concern for others that dwarfs any really cold-eyed pursuit of their own national interests?"

But I felt that the retort was rather weak. So I went to look for an answer

I think that history provides a few clues to this: Soldiers are at their extreme, not human. They are not supposed to be so. Neither training, nor the experiences of war can guarantee the humanity of the soldier in all situations.

The LA Times article (Hat Tip: Truthout) on a recently declassified Pentagon archive, detailing over 300 substantiated claims of military atrocities on Vietnamese citizens by US troops sums up what is already happening in Iraq, decades later and it is likely that similar stories will eventually emerge, substantiated by military investigation, but far, far, far too late for any reasonable sense of justice to be delivered.

“The records describe recurrent attacks on ordinary Vietnamese - families in their homes, farmers in rice paddies, teenagers out fishing. Hundreds of soldiers, in interviews with investigators and letters to commanders, described a violent minority who murdered, raped and tortured with impunity. Abuses were not confined to a few rogue units, a Times review of the files found. They were uncovered in every Army division that operated in Vietnam.”

So, all soldiers are capable of terrible acts, of atrocities: it seems hypocritical to even suggest that western governments are soft. But the issue of why these events are hardly the norm is the real issue. Soldiers do (and must) to a certain extent, take some responsibility for their actions, even if they are never punished by a higher power. In the end they probably get off far lighter, than the Government’s themselves. It’s harsh to suggest that the atrocities that occur today are a result of Government’s failing to prevent these atrocities, but the problem is that Western democracies, for their part have had to learn some proportionality. All out destruction usually hurts aggressors as much as their antagonists. We need a consistant reminder that soldiers fighting in our name are also as capable to breaching the measures of proportionality set by a state trying to be responsible, and even cross their own moral authority, as those who we accuse of being barbaric, cruel and inhumane.

The recent Israel-Hezbollah War has created another batch of atrocities; even Amnesty International is ready to admit the failure of the UN Human Rights Council to look at atrocities committed on both sides, and it is improbable that any inquiry will ever be set up. Again this oportunity to learn about the ultimate futility of a humane war will be lost in time.

Wars are brutal and people on all sides are victims of the barbarity within the fog of war. Let’s not delude ourselves to the point of considering any nation being “too soft”.

I was going to start out saying that today’s Centre for Global Development's 2006 Commitment to Development Index is a strong reminder of the policies of the 1980s, but also that global development is not a “one shot cure”. After reading it, I am more curious as to our "rise" statisticaly. Nevertheless, it still serves some interesting observatons and it finds us wanting

Looking at the breakdowns, we score #1 for trade overall, a legacy of Rogernomics (yeah, it’s good so long as you don’t look at what happened here at home) and a top 3 in security (I think they forgot Timor, or were our efforts there miniscule?) and migration (this also ignores the issues of cultural immersion and unity, but we already had that problem!)

Now the bad.

Aid (18th place overall), Investment (19th place) and Environment (12th).

While NZ puts a lot into regional development (in regards to the Pacific), and although recent boosts to the aid budget should be acknowledged, 0.22% (or around 200 million, to look at it another way) is not 0.7% (the UN MDC sets the goal for donor nations to contribute 0.7% of GDP). Considering that our weaknesses stem not just by how much but from how we dish out the aid, an easier step (for the immediate future, than trying to get more funding) can be made in the area of “project proliferation” (I would like to try a trans-pacific project, as larger projects usually need to appreciate the local situational context, and we get along reasonably better in the Pacific than elsewhere, and arguably better than Australia)

Investment is an enormous problem, but seeing policy solutions in this area seems remote at best. The current administration is more committed to local investment.

My greatest displeasure(and one area that can and should be resolved immediately) is our abysmal environmental inaction. Looking at our weaknesses in particular, I find a little utilised connection between global development and a more comprehensive climate change policy. Although, I find it strange that NZ is considered to have low gas taxes…Oh, I see the problem, everyone above us lives in Europe! This is a good example of once again NZ falling well behind our convenient yard stick on progressivism: Europe.

In fact, when comparing the ‘most improved’ measure of the CDI, IS is wrong to point out that we haven’t dropped as quickly as Finland and Australia, in fact in the last three years, we have been the second worst improved nation on the index, to Denmark.

A real disappointment. The rise is a sham!

Let Parliament be Parliament

The CoA decision to allow Murray McCully (National, East Coast Bays) to view court documents already known to the media is the right one.

The problem is that once the media knows, there is hardly a situation of confidence existing here. The media have the capacity and will to declare the details to the public (the amount of disclosure is another matter). When Justice Wild suggested that the material could be used for political purposes (in the pejorative), are we assuming that the media could also in effect create the same amount of political damage. It also weakens the power of parliamentary scrutiny.

In other words, the media are capable of being as political as the Opposition. There is no distinction, and any appeal to ethical standards purported by the media in general is inconsequential.

It is also wrong to suggest that politicians would be unable to hold up separation of powers, in particular a Member of Parliament commenting on a case in the courts. There are of course, rules against contempt by MPs.

Let the Loyal Opposition do their job, instead of questioning the corruption of the New Zealand Government.

The Midterm Pool

I've been looking into the upcoming midterm election and have come up with the following as the "must watch races": the ones which could go either way. Anyone want to pick the winners?


Michigan (Is it the AMWAY?)

Michigan, traditionally more a blue state, have had to deal with many major plant closures, with the public approval rating of incumbent Jennifer Granholm and with high profile opponent Dick DeVos (Anyone who has done AMWAY knows the name) kicking in his campaign early, Granholm’s attempt for a second term looks shaky.

Granholm has been considered a ‘rising star’ in the Democratic Party and won the primary uncontested, but so far has struggled to find the resources to fight a campaign against one of the largest contributors to the GOP. Already DeVos has spent 16 million in TV ads alone. DeVos was set to go to a primary until the two other candidates dropped out. DeVos has pushed his campaign entirely on the economy, but is coy when pushed on family issues.

California (Can Westley terminate the Governator?)

Arnold Schwarzenegger has found himself in the same situation as all candidates in the centre…pissing off the periphery. His positions on abortion and stem cell research have alienated conservatives and his veto of California's gay marriage bill alienated liberals. Still don’t count the “Governator” out. Going up against him is State Treasurer Phil Angelides, winning a close primary and he needs to unite the party and capitalise on the Anti- Schwarzenegger climate (last years public rebuking of all four of Schwarzenegger’s proposals shows a pliable public that can be turned against the incumbent


Connecticut (A Three Way Dance)

Joe Lieberman is fighting for his fourth term as U.S. Senator. After losing Tuesday’s primary, Lieberman has quickly formed his own party and will stand as an independent. He has taken flak over his support over Iraq (in a state that has been shown to be strongly against the war) and his public closeness with President Bush had irked many. Despite this, he still has supporters, and is a major challenger.

The winner of the Democratic Primary, Ned Lamont is clearly more liberal than the 2000 Democratic Vice Presidential Candidate, supporting universal health care and gay marriage, but strongly vocal against the Iraq war and domestic anti-terror reforms. Combined with his ability to fundraise, and the immediate support of the DNC, he is in a strong position. Yet, like above, he still has to win over supporters in his own party on the hustings. The entry of Lieberman is set to split to some extent the Democratic vote.

So a split democratic vote, in a blue state, even a muppet monkey would have no trouble, right? Sorry the GOP lucked out here; earlier this year Alan Schlesinger was nominated for the republican ticket, yet less than a month later, he was facing scandal over his gambling problems. It’s no surprise that with the best chance for the GOP to win here, that the state party has asked him to stand down, and there is no shortage of possible replacements.

Missouri (History never repeats)

Missouri is traditionally a "swing" state and with no gubernatorial race, this is the only show in town. Senator Jim Talent was first elected by a very slim margin in 2004 and faces state Auditor Claire McCaskill, a former Jackson County Prosecutor and the 2004 Democratic Gubernatorial nominee. McCaskill is still tagged with her loss from 2004, yet has herself in the same position Talent was in 2004.

Rhode Island (it’s all about the electoral math, stupid!)

This battle is probably more in the primaries than in the actual race with Lincoln Chafee, arguably the most liberal Republican in the Senate facing a primary challenge from conservative local mayor Steve Laffey…so the old slogans are coming out. However Chafee has strong connections with the GOP and they are keen to keep him there.

Former U.S. Attorney for Rhode Island Sheldon Whitehouse, who narrowly lost the 2004 Democratic primary for Governor, gets a second chance with support from the DNC in his senatorial bid. Up against him is Iraq vet Carl Sheeler, a folksy anti-war candidate, who is considered a dark horse. Surveys see the most likely match up being Chafee and Whitehouse race.

New Jersey (No One Likes Anyone in the Garden State)

Current Governor Jon Corzine, was elected in 2005 after serving in the senate and immediately appointed Robert Menendez to serve the last year of the Senate term. State Senator Thomas Kean, Jr. has since put his hat in the ring for the Republicans. The state itself is generally blue, with President Bush very unpopular, but the public aren’t that happy with Governor Corzine and there are fears that this could tank Menendez’s re-election. Add to this the fact that both parties’ aren’t waxing lyrical about their own candidates (Democrats see Menendez as too abrasive, the GOP see Kean as too liberal) and it’s no surprise that this could get very close indeed.


Arizona 8 (Kolbe’s out, who’s in?)

This race is fascinating, but mostly because of the state, rather than the candidates. It is a Red State (just), but the retiring Jim Kolbe (an openly gay Republican), has been consistently elected for two decades, often by wide margins (in 2004, he beat Randy Graf, in what was considered to be a tough primary, yet won the general election with 61% of the vote) So this is a state that the Dems will want to take. The Democrat primary is a smorgasbord of candidates, including former State Senator Gabrielle Giffords, former fighter pilot Jeff Latas, Raytheon employee Alex Rodriguez, former government employee Francine Shacter and anchorwoman Patty Weiss.

Randy Graf is back to contest for the seat, in a primary with war veteran and small business owner Mike Hellon and current state Representative Steve Huffman.

Florida 22 (Unlucky 13?)

Republican incumbent Clay Shaw has been elected to twelve terms in the House and has strong local support but will be facing his toughest race since 2000 going up against State Senate Minority Leader Ron Klein. Shaw has been criticized for refusing to return $30,000 in campaign contributions from ARMPAC the organisation at the centre of the Tom DeLay scandal. But we will be coming back to this part later. With such a tight race expected (Klein is noted as a good fundraiser and good friend of neighbouring Congressman Robert Wexler [D] as well as having the wider party support), will take it’s toll on the candidates, and for Shaw, recently found to be suffering from lung cancer, it could be quite an accomplishment to win his 13th term.

Indiana 8 (The bloody eighth!)

So called because of its long history of incumbents being ousted, the state is red, but elects Democrats in local elections. Incumbent John Hostettler [R] is up against Sheriff Brad Ellsworth. Hostettler has a history of winning tough re-elections (which goes with the territory), but Ellsworth is believed to be his most popular opponent to date (with Hostettler’s own popularity at the 30-40% range).

Iowa 1 (Watch the signs)

In a battleground state like Iowa, any race is a useful indicator for the 2006 Presidential Elections. While the state is blue, it has been represented by Jim Nussle [R], who is retiring so as to run for Governor. In a shock win, Mike Whalen took the Republican nomination on a border security platform, and will face attorney Bruce Braley.

Illinois 8 (The empire strikes back)

A highlight of 2004 was the election of Melissa Bean (D) over 35-year House veteran Phil Crane (winning 52% of the vote), in what is a typically Red State. She goes up against investment banker David McSweeney, who has been willing to spend much of his own money on the campaign, after winning a heavily contested Republican primary. The Party has been very active and wants the seat back. Meanwhile, Bean has a thorn in her side in the form of Bill Scheurer, eroding her liberal and union support base.

Ohio 18 (another Ambroff casualty?)

Though incumbent Robert W. Ney (R) has won here since 1994 his involvement in the Abramoff' scandal, withdrew and has reportedly asked Ohio state Senator Joy Padgett to run in his place. This state has recently been a red one, but the unpopularity of Governor Bob Taft and tough republican primaries mean that this state could switch. Dover Lawyer Zack Space, popular in his home town, beat three others in a surprise win for the Democratic nomination. He is also a strong supporter from embryonic stem cell research (with has a son with Type I diabetes)

Pennsylvania 6 (Run to the hills)

In a repeat of 2004, Jim Gerlach [R] will go up against Lois Murphy. Gerlach won re-election by a 51% to 49% margin, but he is also caught up in the DeLay scandal, with Democrats demanding that he return the disputed $30,000 he received, or donating it to charity. The state is marginal, and with the likely defeat of State Senator Rick Santorum [R], Gerlach opened his media campaign by distancing himself from the GOP, with a TV ad criticising President Bush's immigration proposals.

Texas 22 (You reap what you sow)

Sometimes fact is better than fiction, and with a plot that is better than any political drama, The incumbent, Tom Delay [R], the main person embroiled in the scandal bearing his name, initially decided to run, in spite of being indicted, winning the primary in March this year. Then in June, he resigned his seat (note that Gerlach in the race above said, he would pay back the 30,000 if he resigned, yet he has not) and Governor Perry, also running for election, is determined to not get caught up in the matter, leaving the election for the post until the midterms. However, bumbling by Delay, has meant that there will be no Republican on the voter form, as DeLay has pulled out (and moved to Virginia), and the law prohibits a replacement on the basis of resignation. The republicans have no choice but to campaign for a “write in candidate”, with local mayor David Wallace the likely ‘candidate’. Despite DeLays poor 2004 showing (winning with only 55% of the vote, in what is a strong Red district) and Libertarian nominee Bob Smither is a plausible dark horse. The Democratic nominee is Nick Lampson, a former House Rep whose district was dismantled during the 2003 mid-decade redistricting engineered by DeLay. The 22nd now includes part of Lampson’s old district.

The Forgotten Impact

It could be acceptable to forget the wider impacts of this Israel-Lebanon War (I think someone has to be clear and say that this is certainly one) beyond the loss of innocent life and livelihoods on both sides, but the long term impacts are likely to be much wider.

From the UN News Feed:

"Two United Nations experts arrived in Syria today to evaluate the consequences of the oil spill caused by Israel’s bombardment of a power plant in Lebanon that has already polluted over 140 kilometres of coastline, according to the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), which reported that no clean-up action has yet been possible.

“While I fully understand the complexity and political implications,” UN Executive Director Achim Steiner said, “many are appalled that, more than three weeks into this crisis, there has been no on-the-ground assessment to support the Lebanese Government, no moves possible towards a clean-up, and indeed few practical measures to contain the further spread of the slick.”

UNEP said the quantity of oil spilled in Lebanon is already comparable to the disaster caused in 1999 off the coast of France when the Erika tanker spilled an estimated 13,000 metric tonnes of oil into the Atlantic Ocean. The agency warned that if all the oil contained in the bombed power plant at Jiyyeh leaked into the Mediterranean Sea, the Lebanese oil spill could well rival the Exxon Valdez disaster of 1989.

“We are dealing with a very serious incident and any practical steps are still constrained by the continuation of hostilities. We are glad that two of our experts will now be able to provide advice from Damascus, even though much more is needed,” said Mr. Steiner.

UNEP is working with the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and the European Commission (EC) to create the conditions under which remedial action can be taken.

Marine species such as sea turtles and Bluefin tuna are feared to have been affected by the oil spill. According to the information received by UNEP’s Athens-based Mediterranean Action Plan, there is a spawning area for Bluefin tuna in the Eastern Mediterranean and the eggs and larvae may well have suffered the consequences of the oil pollution.


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