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Overseas Kiwis change election results

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It is somewhat ironic that analysis of the overseas New Zealand votes has shown that the Green Party’s increase of one seat in Parliament is owed to Labour, due to discrepancies between the New Zealand voters and the overseas New Zealand voters. This is despite the fact that once the special overseas votes were counted the Greens gained one seat at National’s expense.

The analysis between home support and international support for each party was conducted by Kea New Zealand.

Kea’s press release states, “Overseas voters changed Parliament’s makeup because they differed markedly in how they supported the three largest parties in the new Parliament.”

National had a ratio of votes 2:1 (52.3% versus 27.8% respectively) over main political opponent Labour which is the main reason why Labour lost one seat.

The turnout for overseas voters was record breaking (excluding war time votes; and having 28,000 in 2005 and about 17,000 in 2002), with Kea running a campaign overseas to make sure “Every Vote Counts”. “We are pleased with the impact of our campaign, given that it was mounted on a small budget by a non-profit organisation,” says Ivan Moss, the Chief Executive of Kea New Zealand.

Mr Moss claims that, “Every Vote Counts directly reached well over 20,000 people and was responsible for initiating at least 7,000 voting enrolments.”

32,000 people cast special votes originating from different countries rather than New Zealand.

Mr Moss says, “But we remain concerned that overseas Kiwis have the lowest enrolment rate of any group of eligible New Zealand voters. The 60,000 who enrolled to vote this year is only about 12% of the estimated 500,000 New Zealanders overseas who are eligible.”

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Written by Gabriel Pollard

18 December, 2008 at 7.58 pm

Posted in New Zealand, Politics

13 airlines accused of cartel behaviour to be prosecuted

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New Zealand’s Commerce Commission has filed proceedings in the High Court of New Zealand against 13 international airliners for alleged cartel  behaviour for more than seven years. Seven airline staff of a high level in their respective companies also face prosecution.

In a press release the Commerce Commission said, “Airlines throughout the world colluded to raise the price of freighting cargo by imposing fuel surcharges for more than seven years. This affected the price of cargo both into and out of New Zealand.”

The Commerce Commission said that between 1999 and 2000, the 13 airplane operators entered into an illegal agreement imposing fuel surcharges for six years until 2006. Following the 9/11 attacks on America, a security surcharge was also imposed, according to the New Zealand Government’s competition regulatory agency.

The allegations also involve a series of regional price fixing agreements.

Around 60 airline operators are involved, but only 13 are being focussed on; including Air New Zealand, British Airways and Australian-based Qantas Airways. More staff could be involved too.

The agency bringing the charges have claimed that the anti-competition colluding has “extensively” harmed the New Zealand economy. It is estimated that the price fixing generated a revenue of NZ$2.9 billion over seven years.

Commerce Commission Chair Paula Rebstock said, “Participation in cartel activity is internationally regarded as one of the most egregious forms of anti-competitive behaviour.

“Many New Zealand businesses and every consumer will have been directly affected by the increased air freight costs over many years. It will have resulted in increased costs for exporters and importers and higher overall prices for many consumer goods.”

State owned Air New Zealand’s general counsel John Blair says the Commission is merely “grandstanding” and they will defend the charges before them outright.

International equivalents of New Zealand’s Commerce Commission are already investigating, with several companies already being issued massive fines amounting to tens, even hundreds, of millions of dollars each.

Ms Rebstock said, “New Zealand is a long way from its overseas markets and so the harm to our economy and our ability to compete internationally will have been disproportionately greater than in other jurisdictions in which the conduct took place.”

The Commerce Commission were tipped off from an industry insider, whose airliner have been granted immunity from prosecution.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Gabriel Pollard

15 December, 2008 at 2.04 pm

Buy Kiwi Made campaign suspended

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The recently elected National-led Government has announced that it’s conducting a review of the effectiveness of the “Buy Kiwi Made” ad-campaign championed by the previous Government.

Minister of Economic Development, Gerry Brownlee, said that the campaign will be halted indefinitely after Christmas unless their review shows that it did in fact help New Zealand-made goods attract more customers. The Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand, which grew the campaign with support of the previous Labour-led Government, claim that the review will show that the campaign helped to increase the supporters of locally-made products.

The Minister also questions what the slogan “Buy Kiwi Made” means when New Zealand companies use other countries to actually make the product, use international advertising companies, etc.

Instead of wanting New Zealanders to buy New Zealand goods, Mr Browlee wants those products to be open to different markets, such as the Chinese-markets, among other countries.

National and its coalition partners, such as the ACT Party, attained the majority of the 122-seat Parliament in the election held last month.

Written by Gabriel Pollard

6 December, 2008 at 4.43 pm

Greens and Nationals seats amount change

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On November 8 New Zealanders headed to the polls to determine who would lead the next Government. On the night supplementary counts gave National 59 seats and the Greens had eight seats. Now, with the release of the special votes, those two numbers have changed with National losing one seat to the Green party (58-9 respectively).

The new amount of seats does not affect which party holds power in the minority Government with National’s agreements with Act (5 seats), UnitedFuture (1) and the Maori Party (5) remaining dominant in the 122 seat Parliament (an overhang of two because the Maori Party won more electorate seats than was reflected in their party vote support).

Chief Electoral Officer Robert Peden released the confirmed figures this afternoon which means Cam Calder is no longer an MP for National, and Kennedy Graham is the newest confirmed face to the Green’s caucus.

The Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand are not surprised that they grew their seat total, as they have always been favoured in the special votes. In fact, they had already been including Mr Graham in caucus discussions prior to the announcement of inclusion.

There were 270,965 special votes cast and despite that total no other parties lost or gained seats; thus all candidates are confirmed to have won their electorates. The special votes were important in the electorates where a thin majority held power, such as Waimakariri where Clayton Cosgrove only held it by 518 votes. That lead has now shrunk to a mere 390 votes.

New Zealand First still didn’t reach the 5% threshold required for a party to gain representation in Parliament (unless an electorate is won) – only acquiring 7,000 more votes.

For the near 280,000 special votes, only 32,000 of them were from overseas New Zealanders, the remainder were from voters voting two weeks ago outside their designated electorates.

Main opposition party, Labour, still remains with 43 seats.

Written by Gabriel Pollard

22 November, 2008 at 2.36 pm

Anti-smacking law has few opponents

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The repeal of Section 59 from the Crimes Act in New Zealand has only 20% of New Zealanders opposing it. The often dubbed “anti-smacking law” removed the right for adults to use “reasonable force” to discipline their children.

43% of those surveyed by UMR on behalf of the Office of the Children’s Commissioner responded positively to the anti-smacking law, 28% opposed; the rest were neutral. However, when asked the question, “Should children be entitled to the same protection from assault as adults?”, 80% said that they should. Lobby group Family First NZ is dismayed at this figure. National Director Bob McCoskrie said, “This figure should be 100%. But the Children’s Commissioner has simply caused confusion by misrepresenting the effect of the law and the difference between assault and a light smack.”

Crimes (Substituted Section 59) Amendment Act 2007 is fairly well known by the public, but specifics weren’t as well publicised. Perhaps this is why there has been a citizens’ initiated referenda (well over 200,000 eligible voters signed a petition supporting smacking). Children’s Commissioner Dr Cindy Kiro said, “Many parents are ready to move on and find positive ways of parenting that involve discipline without violence, so there needs to be support for that with information and education.”

In 1993 a survey was conducted around the theme, “is it alright to use physical punishment with children” which resulted in 87% agreeing. This year, it is at a recorded 58%.

The referendum open to all eligible New Zealand voters will be held in August next year via postal vote.

Written by Gabriel Pollard

15 November, 2008 at 11.44 pm

New Zealand First out of the dog box?

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The New Zealand Police have just announced that they will not prosecute New Zealand First’s party secretary for false election returns in 2005 and 2007 because “no offence was committed”. The 2006 return may have also been false, but it is unsure at this stage.

In September leader of the minor party ACT, Rodney Hide, laid a complaint with the police that the electoral returns for 2007 on spending were false.

The main reason the return(s) are false are due to a secret trust called The Spencer Trust which is used to funnel big donations into the coffers of New Zealand First.

The police investigated the claims and today declared that no offence had been committed under the Electoral Act. In a press statement Police said, “Having assessed a range of information from various sources, and having considered the elements of the offence contained in s214G, Police are satisfied that no offence was committed.”

The party secretary can only be charged if they knowingly file a false declaration.

They will not make any further enquirers into what New Zealand First describes as a smear campaign orchestrated by the media, among other groups.

Winston Peters, leader of the embroiled minor party, said that he always knew the allegations made before him were baseless and had expected to have been cleared earlier by the police.

If an offence had occurred, the police would have had to have laid charges by November 18 – the cutoff date for charges to be laid.

Last month, the Serious Fraud Office also found New Zealand First to have not done anything fraudulent. And, despite being cleared by those two separate investigations, the major National Party and minor party the Greens have declared they won’t work alongside Winston Peters.

Written by Gabriel Pollard

4 November, 2008 at 8.51 pm

Posted in New Zealand, Politics

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MMP means Labour could still govern

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Because New Zealand is using Mixed member proportional (MMP) as the voting system in General Elections, there is a real prospect that the underdog political parties could form the next Government.

Basically when a voter goes to the polling booth they have two choices: one for the MP to represent their area and one for the party they support. Based on the percentage of party vote, that calculates the amount of seats each party gets. And currently, New Zealand is under rule from a Labour-led Government which includes other minor parties as New Zealand First, UnitedFuture, and others to a smaller extent.

Labour got more support than National did in the 2005 election and managed to get a coaltition together to control the majority of seats.

Because of MMP, the other minor parties play a much bigger role; coalitions are vital to power.

Let’s look at that scenario though. If Labour did have confidence of the house albeit National had the biggest party vote share, I suspect there would be quite an upset (except those who support Labour, and other left-wing parties). Mainly because the swinging voters wanted a change from left-wing to right-wing, yet the socialists were able to crawl back to power. Labour could still manage to get a coalition together with at least New Zealand First, Greens, and Progressives. The latter will win at least one seat, and with the Greens polling as high as 11% – New Zealand First looks unlikely to make it into Parliament again – it could be possible.

November 8 will show us. And, if you live in New Zealand, make sure you’re able to vote on election day.

Written by Gabriel Pollard

28 October, 2008 at 9.55 pm