Entries in politics (128)


I'm Sharing on Flipboard

I'm now sharing news and articles I find interesting on Flipboard - https://flipboard.com/@gavinknight


Standing for Board of Trustees of Newlands College

My name is Gavin Knight and I am standing for the Board of Trustees for Newlands College.

It has been my privilege to serve on our school's Board for the last 5 years. I have led the Charter committee for 4 of those years and have enjoyed being part of strategy and policy development for our school. Earlier this year the Board appointed me Chair.

This year our longest serving Trustees are concluding their service, so I seek re-election to our school's Board so I can help provide continuity.

Newlands College is a fantastic school and has been very good to my family. Our two children received a well-rounded education over the 9 years they were here. Our youngest child has now left school but I would like to continue giving back to the college community by serving another term.

I am passionate about education. I have enjoyed being part of the Board's role in guiding the school on what matters most to our community - in particular to focus on helping every student achieve to the best of their ability.

Professionally I am a freelance business and IT consultant. Project management is my primary focus. I have been a consultant for more than 15 years after spending more than 10 years as an accountant.

I also have extensive experience in leadership and governance roles in the not-for-profit sector. This has helped me serve on our school board.

I believe the service I have already provided demonstrates my passion and commitment to the school, and also my ability to be part of providing the leadership the school Board needs to provide.

I seek your support in voting for me to serve another term on the Board of Trustees for Newlands College.


This is Not an Act of God ...

"This is not an act of God, this is the earth, doing what it does.

The act of God is is how we love each other, how we reach out to one another."
--- Peter Beck, Dean of the Christchurch Cathedral.

This statement resonated deeply with me when I first saw it on Friday on Facebook while catching up with the still ongoing stream of devastating news and reaction following the earthquake which struck Christchurch on Tuesday. I have been reflecting on it all weekend.

I immediately posted it on Facebook and Twitter myself. I also emailed it to a couple of pastor friends, saying "it's too good to leave [on Facebook and Twitter] alone" - hoping it might help them prepare for leading their church services today. One, my own pastor, challenged me to capture my thoughts in this blog post.

I think Dean Beck's statement resonates with me because it not only reflects my understanding of God, but it also directly confronts those who loosely use the phrase "Act of God" as a way to blame God, or at least hold God to account, for natural events. As if faith in God is some form of lottery, which some must win, and others must lose. Before science helped us understand what is going on in the world around us it was understandable to ascribe natural events like earthquakes to our understanding of a higher power, but we no longer need to do this. Of all places, we here in New Zealand have a rich and growing understanding of seismic forces and what they can, and do, do. Here in Wellington, where I have lived my entire life, we are well aware we have been due the next 'big one' since before I was born.

Just as importantly, I like Dean Beck's statement because it also contradicts those who make the deeply insensitive, and in my opinion plain wrong, statements that earthquakes like this are God passing judgement. One such website, which I refuse to link to, has already caused much comment, and hurt, online. I am also saddened by an Auckland pastor who it seems wrote to all MPs after last September's first Christchurch earthquake blaming it on all sorts of government decisions in recent decades - no doubt a follow up email will soon again be heading the way of MPs. That just makes me angry.

Religious nutters made similar "it is God's judgement" claims in the wake of the davastation caused to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Time quickly made a mockery of their claims. Bourbon Street (the renowned 'red light' and night club district in New Orleans), which was supposedly what God was passing judgement on, was up and running within days. But the neighbourhoods the poor called home - for whom God's heart is deepest (read all, yes all, of your bible) - were destroyed. Even today, more than five years later, some are still being rebuilt. The stories of people from those neighbourhoods, including many with a deep and active faith, are still heart rending. It was said at the time that if Hurricane Katrina was God's judgement on New Orleans, then he wasn't much of a God, because he missed!

My bible tells me we are made in God's image. I contend that when we do good things - particularly for people who are hurting - we reflect his image into the situation in which we are acting. And, I contend this remains true whether or not those actions are driven by personal faith on the part of the person doing the good things - as that doesn't change that we were all made in God's image. Whether or not it is your understanding, that, I believe, is the sense in which Dean Beck said:

"The act of God is is how we love each other, how we reach out to one another."

For those who are currently rushing to judgement - at a time needing compassion, not judgement - I ask them to reflect on this statement by one of the wisest people to have ever lived:

Some people make cutting remarks, but the words of the wise bring healing.

Proverbs 12:18 (New Living Translation)

image courtesy www.Stuff.co.nz (whom I hope will forgive the Copyright violation in the circumstances)


New Orleans, Five Years On

This time five years ago in late August 2005 Hurricane Katrina had already done it's worst to New Orleans, and the levees were collapsing - leaving the city flooded.

My brother-in-law Mike Brantley was visiting his mother just north of New Orleans at the time and has written movingly of his experiences then, and the pain the city still feels from the political failure to make it right.

Mike and Susanne moved back to New Orleans a year later with their two boys Logan and Jordan to be part of rebuilding the heart and soul of the city. They formed Communitas, through which they minister with Chad & Cindy and others - a team I count as friends.

In 2007 I went to New Orleans to see Mike and Susanne and the Communitas team when I was in the USA on business, and then last year when we took a family holiday there. Both times it was great to spend time with family and friends, to visit and fall in love with the city of New Orleans.

On my second visit I was pleased to see some progress in rebuilding the city - but it still astonishes (and angers) me that political failures mean that a major city in the world's wealthiest country has not been able to be rebuilt as quickly as it should.

Mike writes regularly about their ministry in New Orleans and related topics on his two blogs - if his first blog Out On a Limb is too provocative for you then try out his second blog Live To Be Forgotten which he describes as 'playing nicely' as he's more toned down there!

Image courtesy Marilyn's Poetry.


The More Spills Change, The More They Stay The Same


Dear Cabinet Ministers, & Peter Dunne

"Dear Cabinet Ministers, and Peter Dunne (my MP, and also a Minister).

No matter which way you look at it the results of the recent "Smacking Referendum" are resounding and compelling. Yes, the question was poorly worded - but it seems clear to me (and many many others) that the more than 87% of NZers who voted "No" are clearly saying that this law is not a valid expression of what criminal behaviour is.

Press reports tell me that the Prime Minister is taking unspecified proposals to Cabinet to address these concerns. But it would seem the PM's proposals do not go as far as replacing this obnoxious law which it is now abundantly clear does not carry the support of more than 87% of NZers. If so, such proposals cannot be an adequate response to the clearly expressed will of the NZ voting public.

You can do better than this.

I commend to you the "Borrows amendment". It is a much clearer expression than the current (amended) s59. And, ironically - given the debate, actually provides children with more protection because it defines reasonable force for the forms of smacking (and other ‘reasonable force’) which the current (amended) s59 allows but does not define.

I ask that, whatever you decide in response to the PM’s proposals, you also introduce a bill to parliament along the lines of the "Borrows amendment", allow it to go to Select Committee, and then pass it if it carries public support.

Yours sincerely, Gavin Knight, Wellington.

PS, this letter has also been posted to my blog. I reserve the right to also post your response, particularly if it is not a substantive response."

Update: I suggest you also read Madeleine's similar letter.


Chris Trotter on the Smacking Referendum

Christ Trotter, a left wing journalist with whom I rarely agree, has written an insightful article interpeting what last week's referendum result tells us, and placing it in it's historical and political and social context:

... The count [in the the so-called "Anti-Anti-Smacking" Citizens Initiated Referendum] showed that nearly nine-tenths of the voting population responded to the question: "Should a smack as part of good parental correction be a criminal offence in New Zealand?"; by voting "No".

What does that result tell us about those New Zealanders?

Does it tell us that 87.6 percent of us are inveterate child-beaters: cruel and unusual punishers, who see their children as some sort of personal possession; mere extensions of their own, all-too-fragile, egos – rather than as vulnerable little human-beings, with the same right to be protected from common assault as any adult?

Has it, if only for the brief moment it took to draw the heavy curtains of silence and denial more closely together, afforded us a glimpse of the ugly dysfunctionality at the heart of the New Zealand family?

Has it alerted the 11.8 percent of us who voted "Yes" that all around us children are living in a state of deep emotional confusion: never knowing from one moment to the next whether the adults they love and trust most in the world are going to suddenly lash out and whack them?

To hear the defenders of the "Anti-Smacking" legislation tell the story, that’s exactly what the result of the referendum has told us.

Are they right?

The answer, of course, is "No."

The truth of the matter is that most of the young New Zealanders currently raising children long ago stopped using the "smack" as part of "good parental correction". If they hit their kids at all, it’s only in the extenuating circumstances already contained in the current legislation – which basically sanctions the use of parental force to prevent a child from either inflicting or experiencing greater harm.

These parents are part of the great virtuous circle of childrearing which traces its origins back to the dramatic cultural shifts of the 1950s, 60s and 70s. With each passing generation, this circle will widen until, in a relatively short space of historical time, the use of corrective violence will almost entirely disappear from New Zealand society.

Sue Bradford’s "Anti-Smacking" law reinforces this trend – but it did not create it. And, regardless of whether the law survives this referendum result, the trend will continue. ...

I encourage you to read the full article.


Why I Voted No

I have been pondering my vote in the smacking referendum for some time, and finally filled in my voting paper tonight. I will post it tomorrow, just in time!

Should a smack as part of good parental correction be a criminal offence in New Zealand?

My intent has wavered because I am not happy with the behaviour of too many on either side of the debate, and quite frankly, don't want to be associated with many of them.

Here's why I considered voting Yes:

  • although Sue Bradford's original bill would have removed the 'reasonable force' defense from parents in all circumstances, the law as actually passed only did so for 'correction' - the new s59 clearly allows 'smacking' in other circumstances (safety, offensive behaviour, normal course of parenting, etc)
  • the wording of the referendum question is appallingly poor, and I have to wonder whether this was done cynically by those proposing it - even Sue Bradford (hardly a supporter of this referendum) identified a much simpler and clearer wording of what we all think the referendum question is, and should be "Should the defence of reasonable force for the purpose of correction be available to New Zealand parents?" (interestingly this would invert the Yes/No way to vote)
  • I am very unhappy that the christian aligned organisations supporting the referendum have lost the debate over the language of the debate, and that smacking is now synonomous with violence - while the referendum will probably be 80-90% "No" the language of the debate has been about violence - he who loses control of the language of a debate has lost the debate
  • a close friend is a retired policeman who spent considerable time working in the family violence area in the third world in 1990s - he tells me he only made progress with teaching people that hitting your spouse was never OK when the threshold was zero - there was no level of 'smacking' your spouse that was appropriate - maybe, just maybe, by making the same point about parental smacking of children we might be able to start making progress with those segments of our society for whom the tolerance for acceptable 'smacking' of children is much more brutal than we want to be the case - unfortunately, we're never going to stop child abuse, but maybe, just maybe, we might be able to reduce it

Here's why I considered voting No:

  • I have no doubt that in most cases 'smacking' is done as part of 'good' parenting
  • I am also certain that in most cases where 'smacking' is not 'good' parenting, it is still far short of what most New Zealanders consider criminal behaviour - and even the old s59 would have dealt appropriately with the more extreme cases which are/were clearly criminal (even if there were a few exceptions of juries allowing the defense when most think they shouldn't have)
  • I am not sure what 'correction' means in the context of the new s59 - I think it is synonomous with 'punishment' - ie it specifically disallows 'smacking' as a punishment

In the end I decided to vote No, because I consider that in most cases 'smacking' falls somewhere in the good/bad parenting range, not in the bad/criminal parenting range.


replacing S92A in NZ's Copyright Act

I have been thinking through what to recommend as a replacement for S92A in NZ's Copyright Act, but I can't think of any better contribution than that provided by Stephen Franks just after the #blackout campaign. Some key quotes:

"... The new law upholds copyright holders’ property rights. It is fair enough, as far as it goes. ... [an] industry code is not the cure. It looks useful, but no lawyer with respect for the rule of law would suggest that a private code of procedure is the cure for a law that is incomplete and licenses abuse. As drafted it may be suitable for the ISP professionals, but it is too cumbersome for customers to master. ... Completion of the regime requires only an equivalent and balancing protection for the ISP and the customer’s property rights. That is straightforward - compensate the customer whose ISP is obliged to interfere without adequate reason, and compensate the ISP for any reasonable costs of investigating copyright claims that prove to be unjustified. The compensation rules can be clear enough and tough enough to discourage most if not all abuses of the new copyrightholders’ rights. ... Because the normal court system has become hopeless at enforcing remedies (other than in huge commercial disputes) the system may need a copyright claimant to post a bond for a pre-estimated cost of compensation, and perhaps a quick and dirty simplified adjudication system. ... The copyright claimant should have parallel rights to recover its full costs where a customer or ISP have unreasonably resisted a justified claim. ...These are not novel or radical ideas. They were the basic principles of British freedom for centuries. Leave people free to do what they wish, but if they wrongly harm others they’ll have to pay. ... Freedom plus liability is specially valuable for evolving circumstances where the lawmaker can’t predict how a prescription might warp future conduct. ... Too often reforming lawyers and politicians would much rather draft detailed prohibitions than balance the incentives, then leave discretions with the people involved, weighing the costs and benefits of their actions. ..."


a prayer that is all too true to be funny?


Should Cullen be Charged?

In my opinion Michael Cullen - who released the Pre-election Fiscal Update as Labour's Finance Minister before the election last November - should be charged with breaching the Public Finance Act.

Consideration should also be given to also charging other previous Labour ministers who knew, and possibly the relevant senior government officials.

"The previous Labour-led government should have revealed a $1.5 billion ACC funding gap in the run-up to last year's election, a ministerial inquiry concludes. The report found the shortfall in the Non-Earner’s Account was known to ACC, the Department of Labour, Treasury, ACC Minister Maryan Street and Finance Minister Michael Cullen in time for it to be disclosed as a fiscal risk in the Pre-election Fiscal Update."
The above quote is from a press release issued earlier today by National's Finance Minister Bill English. Labour, of course, contends that the "report shows [their] former ministers [have been] exonerated".

This has been a matter of much speculation since the election and considerable debate in the blogosphere and on forums like Twitter - including today, which is not to be unexpected.

The Public Finance Act is one of our most important pieces of legislation - it is almost constitutional in stature. It governs how public money is managed. One of it's most critical elements is a requirement for an "opening of the books" prior to each election - known as thePre-election Fiscal Update ("PREFU"). This requirement is supposed to ensure that parties contesting the election, and voters assessing the policies of those parties, do so with full knowledge of the country's financial position.

It is ludicrous that Labour Ministers did not include the ACC shortfall in the 2008 PREFU. A court of law is the place to determine if they are liable under the Public Finance Act.If they are not liable then that is a serious gap in the Act which will need to be closed.

Labour thinks it has nothing to hide - let them prove that in a court of law, before an impartial jury or judge (I am not sure which would apply).

I find it somewhat ironic that Labour - who pushed through the now largely repealed Electoral Finance Act in order to supposedly increase transparency in elections - now try to hide behind a technical interpretation of the Public Finance Act which enabled them to (maybe) get away with not declaring a significant liability they had incurred on behalf of the voters of New Zealand.

As a final thought - this is not just a political debate. If it were, then in my opinion the election closed the debate even though almost all of the facts did not become public until after the election. It would not be helpful for the stability of our democracy for a new government to be able to take it's predecessors to court for political matters which are better settled by the voters. However, this situation is so egregious I believe it should be settled in an independent forum. Given that we are talking about what might have been a breach of one of our most significant laws that independent forum can only be a courtoom.

Update History:
Tue-4-Mar-09: added image courtesy ODT


#blackout protest has had some success!

yay for democracy!

the #blackout protest has had some success

I'm putting back my avatar on Twitter and Facebook now

Dave: "Great news. Section 92A of the Copyright Act has been delayed until 27 March so a voluntary code of practice can be nutted out. If there is no agreement on it, S92A will be suspended. Even if an agreement is reached, the Act will be be reviewed and monitored by the Government in the first six months. That's what happens when a group of people get a viral protest going, it gets support and gets into the mainstream media before midday and into the Aussie papers and into the Cabinet agenda."

Internet NZ: "New Zealanders can breathe a sigh of relief that their Internet access is no longer under threat due to unproven allegations of copyright infringement. Section 92A still needs to be fully repealed. It is disproportionate and unfit for purpose. But this deferral is a good start."




EFA = gone = yes! yes! yes!

David Farrar reports that the repeal of Labour's repugnant Electoral Finance Act was passed by Parliament this evening.

This law was a disgrace to our democracy, and the satisfaction I feel in it's departure is only improved by watching Labour's grovelling mea culpa joining in voting for it's repeal.

My thanks to David and Whaleoil for leading the online charge against the bill when it was going through parliament. Your passion contributed to my motivation in writing about it here at GavinKnight.com, and in making my first ever submission to parliament.


My New Blogging Strategy

I took a month long break from blogging from early January, and have struggled to get back to anywhere near my previous target of writing an article per day. Partly this is because a lot of my writing last year was prompted by the election, but I'm also finding my online habits are changing - and I've decided that my blogging strategy needs to change accordingly.

I will continue to write here at GavinKnight.com, but less frequently. I am currently targetting at least one substantive article per month for each of my four major themes - Politics, Christianity, Technology and Effectiveness.

It will be interesting to see what this does to my Tumeke NZ Blogosphere and M&M NZ Christian Bloggers rankings seeing as their methodologies have a bias toward high frequency posters - although my rankings couldn't go much lower given my reduced writing frequency over recent months!

So, my new blogging strategy revolves more around the following ...

I have been on Twitter since March 2007, and I'm now posting there more frequently - typically multiple times per day. I'm finding I can often say something just as effectively in a succinct 140 characters as I can by taking the time to write a full article here at GavinKnight.com! So, I encourage you to sign up on Twitter (if you're not already) and 'follow' me there. If you're one of my personal friends on Facebook most of my Twitter posts also appear there as status updates.

A lot of my articles here at GavinKnight.com used to be simply to share interesting items but as most of my online reading comes to me via RSS I'm going to move my sharing of them to sharing from Google Reader. Sometimes I will simply share an article, but I'll try and add a brief comment to some too. To see these, and everything I'm doing online go to FriendFeed (no account required, but it makes for a richer experience).

Are you experiencing a similar change in online habits?


Don't Underestimate the Spirit of Work

Simon Collins has written a profile of new National cabinet minister Paula Bennett in today's NZ Herald. The profile moves between discussing her new role as Social Development Minister, and her journey to that position from teenage solo mother.

It is an illustrative account of the best intentions behind National's 'welfare to work' theme.

There is incredible dignity in work.

"Don't underestimate the spirit of work," she says. "It was the people I met while working that changed my life. I didn't always feel that I was better off financially, but I was a lot better off emotionally."



Tumeke! ranking decreases to 95

My NZ political and news blog ranking has reduced further from #91 to #95 during October.

This is unsurprising given that I didn't write much in September and October while settling into self-employment, but the rest of the NZ blogosphere was going crazy with the then pending election.

Thanks to Tim Selwyn of Tumeke! for all the hard work he puts in collating and analysing the data behind these rankings.

Madeleine at MandM has further analysed this month's rankings and produced her ranking of NZ Christian bloggers, where I have slipped from 6th to 7th. Thanks for your work too Madeleine.


Phil Goff, "the Prince Charles of the Labour Party"

from Colin Espiner's Stuff blog column this morning "All change: New Zealand politics on speed"

"Listening to Goff on the radio this afternoon, he sounded like he’d been the leader of Labour for years. Which, in a sense, he has. He’s the Prince Charles of the Labour Party - the heir apparent who’s been made to wait most of his political life for the prize. No wonder, then, that he sounds polished. He’s been practising at home in the mirror since 1993."

image courtesy NZ Herald 1983 archives


the hope implicit in the election of Barack Obama

the hope implicit in the election of Barack Obama

source unknown (received by email)

cross-posted to Just Comment


Electoral Finance Act

I have deleted the side bar and Policies page references to Labour's repugnant Electoral Finance Act now that the election is over, so it no longer applies to blogs like this one because I understand the regulated period has completed, and is soon to be repealed anyway (hopefully!).