In which your esteemed author tells you who the Labour leader must be, explains why the Government had to appeal the "Quake Outcasts" case, warns you that your right to wear silly lapel pins on election day is under threat, and calls on David Farrar to save Great Britain.

Having been unusually silent for no better reason than I couldn't really be bothered writing anything, a few issues have emerged that invite (nay, require) my views. So here's an unreasonably long post to deal with them all.

First, there's the vexed question of who should lead the New Zealand Labour Party - an issue that everyone and their dog (by which I mean Cactus Kate and that other blogger who need not be named) apparently is qualified to opine upon. I think this fact demonstrates vividly that Labour really is a broad tent party of the people; minor matters like political alliegance, or even a complete lack of common human sympathy, are not considered impediments to having the right to advise it not only on who should take its helm, but just how that person ought to be chosen. What could be more democratic and responsive than that?

So in that spirit, allow me to end all further debate on this matter by telling you who the next Labour leader must be. And that clearly is ... Grant Robertson. I say this not because of his manifest qualities of intelligence and compassion, his leadership skills that combine so seamlessly with his innate ability to bring people together, or his well-thought-out set of policy prescriptions that promise to make New Zealand the brightest shining light on the face of the globe.

No, it must be Grant because if I don't give him my critically important, discussion-ending endorsement, he'll destroy my life by making public the trove of deeply damaging personal information about me (and others) that he sits atop of. I'm not talking about everyday, routine, run-of-the-mill embarrassing escapades from one's youth. No, it's dirty, dirty stuff that cannot be excused by any sort of mitigating circumstances such as "it was the early '90s and we didn't know any better". For obvious reasons I don't want to go too deeply into details, but let me just say that paisley shirts, courderoy jackets and the Inspiral Carpets are involved. I am not proud of any of it.

So there we are, Labour MPs, members, and union goons responding in lockstep to the diktats of your bosses. Choose Grant to lead you. Please.

On a more serious (actually, a far more serious) note, the High Court's decision to quash the Government's policy of offering uninsured red zone property owners only half the amount their insured counterparts received is a bit of a doozy.

I posted on the general issue of distinguishing between uninsured and insured property owners here, expressing sympathy for the Government's position. However, that post treated the matter as a purely policy one (as, I suspect, the Government itself did). I hadn't thought about the legal basis for the Government's position, because I assumed (as the Government apparently did) that it had pretty much a free hand to make offers on whatever terms it wanted. That's because I viewed the issue as a simple one of contract - the Government (like anyone else) could offer to buy the properties at whatever price it thought appropriate, with the property owners then free to say "yes" or "no". Sure, the consequence of saying "no" might be pretty dire - even resulting at a later date in a compulsory acquisition at a far lower price. But is was still just an offer you could take or leave.

What the High Court has said, however, is that the Government cannot rely on the generic legal freedom to make contracts as a basis for its actions here. Instead, because the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Act 2011 (CERA) imposes such a comprehensive set of statutory controls on the rebuilding process in Christchurch, the Government can only purchase land for the purpose of the rebuild using the processes set out in that legislation. That then means that the Government's purchase policy must conform to the purposes of the CERA - which do not stretch to avoiding moral hazard, or the other reasons that the Government may have for paying uninsured folks less. After all, if you just want to get the land for the purpose of rebuilding the city, what does it matter if the property was insured or not?

If this ruling stands, it will pretty much straightjacket the Government into having to pay out all property owners at full value. So, for instance, in the wake of the court's rulng John Key suggested (using perhaps the most cloth eared expression that I think I've heard this usually very good communicator deploy) that:

One option is the Government says: 'Thanks very much, it's been a lot of fun. If you don't want to take the offer, that's where it's at'.

I think that's almost certainly wrong, in light of what the High Court said. Because if it is outside the CERA's purposes to offer uninsured red zoners half of what insured property owners get, it almost certainly would be unlawful to refuse to give them any offers at all (while still sticking by the offers made to insured property owners) just because they were uninsured at the time of the 'quake.

So while I'm sorry for those "Quake Outcasts" who now have to refight this issue before the Court of Appeal, I can understand why the Government wants to take it there. In a sense it's been trapped by its own good intentions - which, as we know, pave the way a certain place we ought not to go.

Turning to another matter that I have posted on previously, I see the Government's proposed changes to electoral law includes a provision that would further constrain how people can behave on election day. Basically, the proposed law removes an exception to the general rule that you can't display any partisan political material on election day that permits:

ribbons, streamers, rosettes, or items of a similar nature, which are worn or displayed by any person (not being an electoral official) on his or her person or on any vehicle in party colours or a party lapel badge worn by any person (not being an electoral official).

I can see absolutely no reason for this at all, except for the fact that some busy-bodies complained to the Electoral Commission about people wearing such decorations on polling day in 2011. Furthermore, the proposed change would still let party scrutineers wear their party colours on their lapels when they sit behind the electoral officials as ballot papers are distributed to the voters.

So, the idea apparently is to prevent people from being influenced in their voting choices by prohibiting people from wearing a small NZ First lapel pin on their jacket as they walk down the street on election day to get their milk - while still letting the last people voters see before entering the voting booth wear big rosettes in their party colours on their chest. I think I might have to say something about this idea to the Justice and Electoral Committee.

Finally, whilst we're on the subject of electoral law and grave threats to our basic liberties, I think David Farrar might need to urgently book himself a ticket to London to sort out the UK Tory Government. First of all, as I noted here, David Cameron is imposing on his Conservative Party the beyond "fruit loop" position of all-women candidate short lists that DPF took such delight in criticising Labour for proposing (it's a (chortle, giggle) "man ban"!). Now it looks like the Conservatives are about to pass a law that makes that much derided affront to our liberties, the Electoral Finance Bill, look like the Magna Carta.

Just to refresh our memories, the Electoral Finance Bill as originally proposed would have stopped "third parties" (i.e. anyone not a candidate or political party) from spending more than $60,000 on "election advertisements" (broadly defined to capture many forms of political expression) in the entire year in which an election is held. Those proposals were overly draconian, and quite rightly a lot of opposition sprang up to the measure - including DPF's "Free Speech Coalition" that put up billboards like these. Because, you see, imposing spending limits on ordinary citizens and civil society groups seeking to express their views about an election is exactly what meglomaniac dictators are all about.

Which perhaps puts into some perspective what the UK Tory Government is proposing to do at the moment:

The [Transparency of Lobbying, non-Party Campaigning, and Trade Union Administration Bill makes] three changes to the regulation of campaigning by non-party organisation in the 12 months before a general election – breaching these will become a criminal offence:

  • Changing the definition of what counts as campaigning – at present only activities designed with the intent of influencing an election result are regulated. The new Bill will instead regulate activity that may affect the result of an election. As any criticism of government policy could affect how people vote, this will severely limit any organisation’s ability to criticise government policies in the run up to an election – not just unions, but charities, NGOs and local campaign groups.
  • Reducing the spending limit for third party campaigners to £390,000 – the amount that third party campaign groups can spend in the year before an election will be reduced by more than half to £390,000.
  • Including staff time and office costs in expenditure limits – currently only the costs of election directed materials, adverts and activities are regulated. The Bill proposes that staff time and other costs should now also be included in the limit. £390,000 may buy a lot of leaflets but any major event involves significant staff time. 

Or, while the Electoral Finance Bill proposed limiting third parties to spending around $0.02 per voter on election-related advertising in the year of an election, the Tory's proposed law would limit third parties to spending around $0.013 per voter on virtually anything that may affect the result of an election for a 12 month period before an election is held.

So fly, David, fly! The liberties of our Mother Country are in peril! Only a billboard with Bashar al-Assad praising David Cameron's iron fisted rule can save it now!

 

The Bill does this by making three changes to the regulation of campaigning by non-party organisation in the 12 months before a general election – breaching these will become a criminal offence:

  • Changing the definition of what counts as campaigning – at present only activities designed with the intent of influencing an election result are regulated. The new Bill will instead regulate activity that may affect the result of an election. As any criticism of government policy could affect how people vote, this will severely limit any organisation’s ability to criticise government policies in the run up to an election – not just unions, but charities, NGOs and local campaign groups.
  • Reducing the spending limit for third party campaigners to £390,000 – the amount that third party campaign groups can spend in the year before an election will be reduced by more than half to £390,000.
  • Including staff time and office costs in expenditure limits – currently only the costs of election directed materials, adverts and activities are regulated. The Bill proposes that staff time and other costs should now also be included in the limit. £390,000 may buy a lot of leaflets but any major event involves significant staff time.
- See more at: http://www.taxresearch.org.uk/Blog/2013/08/25/your-right-to-free-speech-is-about-to-be-taken-away-you-need-to-act-now/comment-page-1/#sthash.juppTExJ.dpuf

The Bill does this by making three changes to the regulation of campaigning by non-party organisation in the 12 months before a general election – breaching these will become a criminal offence:

  • Changing the definition of what counts as campaigning – at present only activities designed with the intent of influencing an election result are regulated. The new Bill will instead regulate activity that may affect the result of an election. As any criticism of government policy could affect how people vote, this will severely limit any organisation’s ability to criticise government policies in the run up to an election – not just unions, but charities, NGOs and local campaign groups.
  • Reducing the spending limit for third party campaigners to £390,000 – the amount that third party campaign groups can spend in the year before an election will be reduced by more than half to £390,000.
  • Including staff time and office costs in expenditure limits – currently only the costs of election directed materials, adverts and activities are regulated. The Bill proposes that staff time and other costs should now also be included in the limit. £390,000 may buy a lot of leaflets but any major event involves significant staff time.
- See more at: http://www.taxresearch.org.uk/Blog/2013/08/25/your-right-to-free-speech-is-about-to-be-taken-away-you-need-to-act-now/comment-page-1/#sthash.juppTExJ.dpuf

Comments (7)

by Tim Watkin on August 29, 2013
Tim Watkin

Wow, a 4-in-1! You know you could have got more hits by spreading those out you know... But on a more serious note, when did the Inspiral Carpets become an embarrassing secret? Or is it what you did with said Carpets?

by David Farrar on August 29, 2013
David Farrar

I'm very happy for Pundit to fundraise to send me to the UK, so I can campaign against the horrific stupidities listed, that Mr Cameron is doing. My preference is to travel in October.

Where we may have a problem however is I suspect you may want a one way airfare, and my preference is for a return flight!

by Andrew Geddis on August 29, 2013
Andrew Geddis

@Tim,

You MSM dinosaur - obsessed with ratings, and ignoring all the hard-core policy in my post in favour of the entertainment reference. And it's not the Inspiral Carpets as such that are the problem, it's what they meant, maaan.

@DPF,

I'll have a word with my friends in the seafarers union and see if we can't get you a berth on a container ship. But won't you have to wait 'till Boris takes over and gives visa-free entry to any old Kiwi who comes knocking?

by Katharine Moody on August 30, 2013
Katharine Moody

using perhaps the most cloth eared expression that I think I've heard this usually very good communicator deploy

Not just insensitive - but down right mean-spirited in my opinion. Do you get the feeling he's had enough of real people and real problems and longs for a return to these good 'ol heady days?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_aM4MH-15YA

 

 

by Jane Beezle on August 30, 2013
Jane Beezle

The key risk for the Tory government will be whether changing the UK electoral rules in the way you describe - particularly the definition of campaigning - breaches article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, and is subsequently declared incompatible by the UK courts under the Human Rights Act.  It would be a good time to be a feisty human rights lawyer in the UK.

 

by Siena Denton on September 01, 2013
Siena Denton

@DPF Not just Andrew may wish to fundraise a one-way ticket for you to the United Kingdom, Granpa Munster.

 

by Petone on September 06, 2013
Petone

Andrew, with all due respect (esp as I have no iota of legal training), I don't think you've quite got to the essence or the impact of the Panckhurst decision.  The decision does not just quash the policy to make 50% offers, it quashes the entire redzoning process.  This is because the issue is property rights, not insurance.  The extra declaration is not in the conclusion, it is in pars 74-81.

The Government did not just assume it could treat "the matter as a purely policy one".  Discovered documents showed the Government considered the implications of using the RMA, and PWA and the CER Act, and didn't like any of them.  The problem with the CER Act is that its first two purposes are community recovery and to enable community participation.  These were not compatible with the Government's broad-brush solutions that created (in Key's words) "winners and losers".  So they decided to just use policy, which in turn required that property rights were not being infringed upon.  Hence they also embarked on a media campaign insisting that the red-zone offers were merely voluntary offers but at the same time scaring people into taking them up.  The Human Rights Commission intervened in the case as it did not agree the offers were merely voluntary, and Panckhust agreed.  The declaration of
unlawfulness inevitably follows.

This ruling does not just straight-jacket the government into paying full value to all landowners. For a start, I don't think it can do anything for the vast majority of owners who have already accepted offers.  But what it does also do is make it unlawful for the Government to finish the zoning in the Port Hills.  A debacle of a process there has seen the zoning review, initially due by Xmas 2012, delayed 7 times.  Many people are absolutely dependent on having zones changed in the review as CERA green-zoned dozens of properties that were unusable due to life hazard.  For the 14 months since they were zoned, in June 2012, these people have been facing losing more than even the uninsured and approaching 100% loss for some houses with minimal damage.  Now they and many others in tricky situations are stuck in legal limbo, more victims of broad-brush solutions.

The irony is that the Government created an Act for community recovery and requiring community participation.. and then put the Hon Gerry Brownlee in charge.  What on earth were they thinking?

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