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New Worthy, 2 December 2005

2 December 2005 - No. 55

New Worthy

Courting older judges

The suggestion by Ministry of Justice officials to extend the retirement age of judges to 70 has merit but it completely overlooks the more pressing need to improve our court processes.

There is no shortage of judicial aspirants – that is for sure. In answer to written questions, (17 November 2005) 190 persons have indicated a current interest in being considered for appointment as a District Court judge and 47 persons have indicated a similar interest in the High Court.

We have the situation where neither the Minister of Justice nor the Minister for Courts have any knowledge or relevant experience of the operations of our courts and both blindly seem to assume that the situation is satisfactory when such is not the case.

The issues of priority are:

- Improving management processes in the courts. At the moment a number of the judges have been seduced into court administration. The judges are there to try and decide cases.

- Implementation of technology proposals which continue to be delayed for no sufficient reason

- Worthwhile career paths for court staff to stem the rate of employment churn.

- Resolving issues of uneven work distribution. That situation is well demonstrated in an overworked Court of Appeal and an under-worked Supreme Court.

There are no cheap fixes in providing a legal system with strength and integrity. Increasing the retiring age for judges is simply a palliative.

For those judges who are worn out, extending their tenure will do little to improve the system, although it may improve their fortunes.

Official Papers Support Many Of National's Policies

Official ministerial briefing papers released on 16 November 2005 confirm how misleading Labour was about the effect of National's election policies on the economy.

Labour argued tax cuts would not improve growth. They were wrong. Treasury says lower tax rates and “reform of the tax system could better support economic growth”.

Labour said changes to the Resource Management Act were in hand, Treasury says they are not. National wanted changes to transport and roading policy, Labour refused

National said there was a productivity collapse in the public sector, particularly in health. Treasury confirms this.

The burden of Petrol Tax

National had a clear policy at the last election that all petrol tax should be allocated to the National Land Transport Fund (NLTF).

Motorists already pay substantial tax on petrol. On a litre of 91-octane the figures are:

47.6c in petrol tax.
15.3c in goods and services tax.
62.9c in total tax.

This accounts for over 45% of the price paid at the pump.

Of the $1.362 billion petrol tax to be raised this year, only $748 million (54%) is bound for the NLTF. $614 million is siphoned off and goes to the Government's general account.

At a time when New Zealand has a huge infrastructure deficit and a massive backlog of urgent roading projects, over $600 million is diverted for general spending.

The baubles of office

As TV3 noted on Friday night, a second meaning of “bauble” is the sceptre of a court jester. That seems singly appropriate in the continuing debate over how a foreign minister can advance Government policy outside a Cabinet ranking and with the freedom to disagree with Government policy except in the area of foreign policy.

The commentators remain trenchantly critical of Mr Peter’s appointment. As one commentator said

"The conduct of a nation’s foreign affairs is much too important a task to be assigned to anyone other than the most senior members of its government.

How could it be otherwise? Foreign policy is the outward projection of a state’s domestic policy.”
The sceptre of a court jester is made up of a single rod puppet with no controls for the legs or arms topped by a small head replica of himself.

From sand to silicon

In the debate which Don McKinnon has stirred up on whether trade was more important than democracy (and whether he in fact said that) Dubai stands out as a stunning illustration of a non-democratic country where the economy is booming and building cranes dominate the skyline.

On 22 November 2005 in Dubai I gave a University speech on the globalisation of legal services and the fundamental obligation of lawyers. The link to this speech is:

New Zealand heroes – Part 7 of a continuing series - Jean Batten

She was the manifestation of triumph and hope against the odds through the dark days of the depression. In 1934 she smashed Amy Johnson’s time between England and Australia by six days. The following year she was the first woman to make the return flight. In 1936 she made the first ever direct flight between England and New Zealand and then the fastest ever trans-Tasman flight. Jean Batten was one of the most famous people in the world in her time.

Jean Batten was born in Rotorua in 1909.

Political Quote of the Week
"I never deny; I never contradict. I sometimes forget."

-- Benjamin Disraeli, British Prime Minister, (on dealing with Queen Victoria)

Richard Worth

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