Monday, January 31, 2005

Flying low

A light plane that crashed in the Gibbston Valley near Queenstown on Saturday, killing two people, had been on a police cannabis reconnaissance flight, says ONE News.

Apparently, it's not the first time that aerial cannabis law enforcement has turned to tragedy. Twelve years ago two officers and two civilians were killed when a spotter plane collided with a helicopter above Auckland. The latest accident brings New Zealand's total aerial cannabis spotting deaths to six.

Police Minister George Hawkins says that "our on-going struggle against drugs, and in particular cannabis, sometimes extracts a cruel price".

It's not worth it, George. Why fight cannabis, when the number of cannabis-related deaths is, officially, zero? Why not fight more dangerous drugs, like ecstasy? The death toll from ecstasy is now... oh... er... only three. Looks like flying around spotting cannabis is twice as dangerous as blissing out on E. Good thing that you've temporarily suspended air searches for cannabis plots. Please, make it permanent. If you fly around looking for cannabis, you're playing Russian roulette.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Brash bashes beneficiaries?

'Beneficiary-bashing' is a popular New Zealand phrase. Lately we're also quite fond of 'Brash-bashing'. Alliteration is fun! Yesterday, the Dominion Post headlined with "War on Welfare" but I think "Brash Bashes Beneficiaries" would have been better.

It's not bashing, though. For bashing you need a stick, not a carrot. Brash thinks that in some cases, benefits are an incentive to be on welfare. In such cases, Brash wants to take away the carrot. He also wants to remove disincentives for employers to employ the unemployed.

The best idea in his Orewa II speech is to reduce the risk to employers of taking on "risky" beneficiaries by introducing a 90-day trial period during which the parties can agree that employment can be ended without penalty to the employer.

This idea has met with a predictable socialist response. Carol Beaumont of the NZCTU says that Brash’s policy of a 90-day trial period for new employees would be open to abuse by employers and fail to protect the rights of workers to secure employment.

Labour Party blogger Greg Stephens says that Brash's proposal is "so that labour can rotate and bosses never have to give pay rises, instead they get a new worker every 90 days".

Green MP Sue Bradford says, "if such a policy was ever introduced, unscrupulous employers would take on workers at the minimum wage, treat them badly for three months, then fire them for no reason, and the sacked employee would have no comeback in law." She almost makes it sound like contracting!

These people have no idea how hard it is to sack employees who fail to perform, once they are employed. Believe it or not, sometimes you can't even sack employees whom you never employed in the first place. Read about the experience of the Crest Commercial Cleaning company. (Isn't alliteration great?!)

Saturday, January 22, 2005

A sign of the times

"Unlocked cars contribute to the growing crime rate!" reads this warning sign by the train station car park. There's something not quite right about this sign. And it's not so much what the police say, as the way they say it.

Unlocked cars don't commit crimes. Criminals do. And criminals are responsible for 100% of thefts of and from unlocked cars, not the unfortunate car owners. Yet the sign leaves me feeling that if I leave my car unlocked and it gets pillaged then I am the criminal.

It's a classic case of finding someone else - anyone else - to blame instead of the actual offender. No wonder, then, that the government has now decided to penalise those who take insufficient measures to protect their cars from theft.

Last week Justice Minister Phil Goff launched the government's Vehicle Crime Reduction Programme. All imported cars less than 15 years old (and therefore worth stealing) will now be required to be fitted with immobilisers and be marked with several thousand uniquely identifying microdots. At the car owner's expense, of course.

Jim Peron says that Goff is substituting Nanny for the police officer. "Instead of protecting people from criminals he proposes a policy to force people to change how they live so the government's failure to protect them isn't as apparent."

Goff is confident that his compulsory measures will lead to a significant reduction in vehicle thefts. But the problem is that criminals will find other, easier targets. The homes of the people who leave their locked, immobilised cars in the station car park, for example. If you want to give the message that crime doesn't pay, you have to catch the criminals, not chide and coerce their victims into paying for ever more sophisticated security measures.

Take it easy, and take the train. And don't forget to lock your car.

Saturday, January 15, 2005

Essential viewing

I read in the Dominion Post that a severely arthritic Christchurch woman has won a landmark case in the High Court over Work and Income New Zealand (WINZ). The court ruled that WINZ must pay the woman a special benefit to cover repayments on a loan she took out to pay everyday expenses and medical costs after becoming a beneficiary. "Accommodation costs and hire-purchase arrangements for essential items, such as television sets, were acceptable expenses under existing criteria, the judgment said."

"[E]ssential items, such as television sets..." If it is essential to have a television, it must be essential to watch it. After all, it can't be essential to have one, just sitting, in a corner. If it is essential to watch television, is this because certain television programmes are essential viewing, or is it just a case of meeting a minimum daily viewing allowance? If certain programmes are essential viewing, which ones are they? I need to know.

After this, I will not be trading in my television for a refrigerator.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Don Brash tsunami

Soon after the Boxing Day tsunami struck, the Ayn Rand Institute issued an uncharitable op-ed saying that the United States government should not give any money to help the tsunami victims, because the money is not the government's to give. This is like claiming that because there's nothing wrong with eating meat, it's OK to slaughter and dine upon the family pet. Whatever the merits of that argument, it's not going to win over any vegetarians.

Belatedly realising this, the ARI subsequently issued an almost-as-embarrassing Clarification of ARI's Position on Government Help to Tsunami Victims.

One of the most annoying things about Ayn Rand's disciples is their Rand-speak. They say, "The American public's predictably generous response to assist these efforts is motivated by goodwill toward their fellow man... This benevolence, which we share, is not the same thing as altruism." Sorry, Randoids, but benevolence and altruism are pretty much the same thing. They then go on to define altruism as "the moral view that need entitles a person to the values of others, whose corresponding duty is to sacrifice their values for that person's sake." Wrong again. That's socialism, not altruism.

The thing is, their view, that the money the government gives in aid is not theirs to give, is essentially correct. Would that they could do a better sales job. What the ARI needs is Don Brash!

Don Brash was dubbed "Hurricane Brash" in the wake of his Orewa speech last year. Political columnist Colin James referred to the Don Brash phenomenon as the "Don Brash tsunami" - unfortunately, just 6 days before Boxing Day. Well, Brash has issued a press release critical of the government's response to the disaster. "I would be the last person to argue for frivolous Government spending but this is one of those cases where the Government response has been inadequate. New Zealanders are a generous people and would expect their Government to be more forthcoming."

Recognise this as essentially the same claim as the ARI's? No? That's how good a salesman Don Brash is! Let me explain.

40% of New Zealand's GDP is government spending. The money the government spends is money stolen in a multitude of ways from tax-payers - ordinary, working New Zealanders. Once that money is out of our wallets and in the hands of the government, we no longer have any real say over how it gets spent. The government decides, not us. So, if we want to give less money to charity, we can't. More importantly, if we want to give more to charity, we can't - not, at least, from the 40% of our money the government has appropriated.

If it's true that the government should not give money to help the tsunami victims, because the money is not the government's to give, then neither should the government withhold money which could go to help tsunami victims, because it is not the government's to withhold.

Sunday, January 02, 2005

Ghoul rush

"Foreign tourists sunbathe on Patong Beach, Phuket, apparently unconcerned as Thai workers pick through tsunami debris behind them," reads the caption to this picture from the front of today's Sunday Star Times.

Are these people for real?

The government has pledged $5 million in aid on our behalves. That may seem like a lot of money, but it's only $1.25 each. Please do give generously to a relief agency such as World Vision. Call 0800 80 2000 to donate.

Tourism is the sole livelihood of many of those worst affected by the tsunami, so don't go cancelling your vacation. Just be discreet about working on your tan.