Friday, December 24, 2004

A Tranzrail Insider Trading development

The Securities Commission's case against David Richwhite and others for insider trading at Tranzrail scored its first win when one of the defendants, Michael Beard, cut a deal. He has to pay some of the money back, an additional fine and testify against his former conspirators. The upshot for him is that he doesn't have to make an admission of liability.

SIS report

The SIS annual report is now out on their site. It aroused media comment for mentioning the threat from Islamist terrorists but far more interesting to me was the breakdown of their activities.
During the year under review sixteen (16) domestic interception warrants were in force. Of those, thirteen (13) were issued during the year under review, and three (3) were issued during the previous year but remained
in force for some part of the year under review. Action was taken under all domestic warrants during the year under review. The average length of time for which those warrants were in force during the year under review was 165 days. There were no amendments under section 4D of the Act. The methods of interception and seizure used were listening devices and the copying of documents.
This statement rules out the widespread and lengthy computer monitoring that had been alleged for Operation Leaf, making it likely that it was "complete fiction".

The Sunday Star Times has been backpedalling from their story although their reasons for doing so look thin. Their sources won't talk to them? If the paper did their job properly, they would have had all the information they needed before publication. It seems likely to me that the Sunday Star Times were waiting on further collaboration of the allegations but have been stone-walled.

Monday, December 20, 2004

Cabinet reshuffle

Helen Clark reshuffled her cabinet today. That fact that George Hawkins still has the police portfolio only demonstrates how minor it was. When his removal was last mooted, both John Tamihere and Clayton Cosgrove threatened to quit. Now John Tamihere is no longer in cabinet and nobody likes (or has ever liked) Clayton, George's survival takes on the appearance of a minor miracle. So why has Helen thrown Margaret to the wolves while giving George the green light to muddle through?

Tuesday, December 14, 2004


Just when I thought that the year's losers awards would go to the people that believed Bush stole the vote in Ohio, a blast from the past shows that they have strong domestic competition: Joe Karam is once again appealing the David Bain case to the Privy Council. That it's been over a year since the Court of Appeal handed down its decision shows how well they demolished Karam's "David is innocent" fantasy. To rescue his dreams, Joe has to invent some new delusions such as the Court of Appeal exceeding their jurisdiction in determining David's guilt.

Margaret WIlson as Speaker?!?

Helen Clark has announced that after Jonathon Hunt goes to his long-anticipated wine-and-cheese tour of the UK, his successor will be Margaret Wilson. While Margaret hasn't been all that great as attorney-general, this is a rather public means of dismissal and the prospect of trying to control Rodney Hide, Winston Peters, Gerry Brownlee and Trevor Mallard makes me quake with fear. Given her lack of effectiveness and her potential for gaffes, I'm wondering whether we will see her crash and burn on a regular basis. Due to these considerations, I don't think she'll be acting when the whips drag her to the Speaker's chair.

The perils of making news rather than reporting it

Judy Bailey, the TVNZ news reader, has managed to wrangle a $350,000 pay-rise, boosting her over-all pay-package to nearly $800,000 per annum. The government is extremely embarressed as the pay-rise sinks a gaping hole in their campaign to end the culture of extravaganza at State-owned enterprises. Cullen has gone so far as to refuse to express confidence in the Board.

Personally I think the TVNZ board was caught between a rock and a hard place. The market for presenters has risen since Kerry Packer decided to make Prime into a major channel and TV3 decided to take advantage of the demise of the Holmes show.
Since then TVNZ has hemorrhaged news-readers and personalities and so it had pay the remaining presenters whatever they asked for. If the Government doesn't want huge salaries paid out to autocue readers, then it has either a) sell TVNZ off or b) watch it wither into a public service broadcaster. Neither of these options are palatable.

I get the impression that the TVNZ management got their own back on Judy by making her announce the news the day the fuss over her salary blew up. She didn't look very happy and I daresay it'll be a cold day in hell before she asks for another huge pay increase. Fortunately for her, Mark Sainsbury had the decency to omit from his news article Helen's tart comment in Parliament today:
We would also expect that anyone appointed to a State-owned enterprises board would really not be pulling in large sums of money for 4 minutes on air a day.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Review of the Immigration Act

According to the six o'clock news, Helen Clark has decided to bring forward a review of the portions of the Immigration Act relating to the granting of the National Security Risk certificates. Previously the Government had decided to do so after the Zaoui case had been settled but with the resolution still at least six months away, the government has clearly lost patience.

One can tell from the statement "any law change would not apply to Zaoui's case" that the government intends to tighten up the law because if the law were to be softened, then there would be no problem with applying the changes to Zaoui. Judging from what has happened, I expect to see something like
Expanded grounds for judicial review of Refugee Status Appeal Authority decisions with the provision of introducing new evidence. If the government had been allowed to contest the RSAA's delusional findings about Zaoui's French and Belgian trials, then he would have been "outski" over a year ago.

Suspension of refugee status proceedings once a security risk certificate has been issued until the Inspector-general of the SIS has issued his assessment. Having Zaoui declared a refugee was a major pain in the arse for the government.

Explicit statements about the provision of bail, if any, and what consideration may be given to the asylum-seeker's human rights. Intended to clamp down on the judicial delays that were the prime cause of Zaoui's extended confinement. If the government is not careful, the proposals could be seen as an attack on the Supreme Court given that it has just issued its decision on whether bail could be granted and is shortly to give a decision on the proper consideration of Zaoui's human rights in the assessment of his risk certificate.
Some people have suggested that the RSAA be allowed to assess the security risk certificates as is done elsewhere. I don't see this idea is a goer simply because the government does not trust the RSAA at present.

Arthur Lydiard tributes

In the middle of all tributes to Arthur Lyndiard, the TVNZ news item at six p.m. contained a real gem. When athlete after athlete spoke highly of his innovative training regime and his motivational talents, one put it into perspective. In the night before the big race of the 1974 Commonwealth games, one spoke of how Arthur said to him that he was the best prepared. The only problem was that the setting was at the Bush Hotel and that the conversation was conducted over "three jugs of beer". Somehow getting sloshed the night before isn't quite what I had in mind as the best way to prepare for a race.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

British Hate Crimes legislation

DPF cites with approval the submission that Rowan Atkinson made to a UK select committee against the proposed hate crimes legislation. My brother, who just arrived from the UK for Christmas, informs me that the proposal to ban hate speech against religions is really to address a disparity within the current legislation. Currently one can be prosecuted for inciting violence against Jews and Sikhs because the practitioners of those religions constitute ethnic groups and promoting hatred against ethnic groups is a criminal offence. However if one were to use similar speech against Catholics or Protestants in Northern Ireland then no offence has been committed because Catholics and Protestants are not ethnic groups.

Furthermore my brother makes the point that hate speech is defined as the promotion of violence (such the infamous "kill a white and die a hero" that was uttered here quite a few years ago) rather than adverse comments about a given religion for critical or comical purposes.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Advice for farewell functions

When farewelling a long-serving colleague who is retiring, do not and I repeat, DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES put sparklers in the floral bouquet.

It just so happened that my finally retiring mother was giving such a bouquet. As we ooed and aahed at the spectacle, the damn thing created a lot of smoke which, since the function was being held indoors, triggered the smoke detector. This automatically raised the alarm with the Fire Service who promptly sent around the fire truck. Fortunately the charge of $1000 for an unnecessary call-out was waived in exchange for a couple of pictures of my mother in front of the fire truck.