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Newsworthy 27 January 2006 - No. 58

27 January 2006 - No. 58

Miscarriages of justice

Those who administer our legal system are generally reluctant to accept that there are imperfections in our legal system. The reality is however, that it is a man-made system and that miscarriages of justice do occur.

The work which Justice Thorp has done and which has been published in the last few days identifying that miscarriages of justice do occur is therefore not surprising. The Judge robustly suggests that the task of identifying miscarriages of justice and putting them forward for reconsideration by the courts should be given to an independent authority. That authority should also assess compensation for wrongful convictions.

National supports that proposal. The Government has yet to read the report.

Two particular areas where the chance of a miscarriage of justice arising are clearly where "jailhouse informants" give evidence as to confessions made in prison and eye witness identification which later prove to be wrong.

Scotland and England have moved to set up independent review commissions - New Zealand should do the same.

Apples and CER

The Ministers of Trade and Agriculture are equivocating on a long running sore in Australia and New Zealand relations. Since 1922 exports of apples to Australia from New Zealand have been blocked by tariffs, embargoes or pest prevention policies.

Australia has banned the importation of apples because of the presence in New Zealand of fireblight, a plant pathogen which is not present in Australia.

Erwinia amylovora is the causal bacterium of fireblight a major disease of pome fruit such as apples and pears.

The scientific evidence is clear - fireblight can not be transmitted by apples free from trash, such as leaves and branches and the World Trade Organisation has accepted that position.

Australian grower pressure (and the fear of competition) is the reason for the continued embargo.

Curiously the CER Treaty between the two countries does not contain a dispute resolution provision. The agreement contains a "consultation" obligation but if the consultation does not result in agreement the outcome is an impasse.

That is why I have been arguing that CER should contain the type of dispute resolution clauses which are common in the trade treaties of today. The New Zealand Government remains quiescent and fearful of antagonising what has been called the "crimson thread of kinship" between Australia and New Zealand.

The Singapore/Australia Free Trade Agreement signed in February 2003 contains such provisions as does the Closer Economic Partnership between New Zealand and Singapore (from which it was taken) signed three months earlier.

The latest polls

The latest Morgan Poll in mid January places the parties: National 42.5% Labour 40.5% Green Party 6.5% NZ First 4.5% Maori Party 2% United Future 1.5% ACT 0.5% "It's the demography, stupid" Hard on the heels of comment in last week's news letter that "It's the economy, stupid" is an insightful article by Mark Steyn that "It's the demography, stupid". The article is widely reported on the internet - see for example

It does a disservice to the author to attempt to summarise his careful views but here are three points:

* the political platforms of pretty much all parties in the western world are largely about what one would call the secondary impulses of society - things like Government healthcare, Government daycare, Government paternity leave. We have prioritised the secondary impulses over the primary ones; national defence, family, faith and, most basic of all, reproductive activity.

* the design flaw of the secular social-democratic state is that it requires a religious-society birthrate to sustain it. The replacement fertility rate is 2.1 babies per woman. Some countries are well above that - Somalia is 6.91, Niger is 6.83 and Afghanistan is 6.78. By contrast New Zealand is 1.79, and Australia is 1.76. Spain's population is halving every generation.

* In 1970, the developed world had twice as bigger share of the global population as the Muslim world. By 2000, they were the same - each had about 20%. Jailhouse Blues Unsurprisingly the Department of Corrections is under intense pressure in respect of its administration. In a raft of issues the following stand out:

* The prison overspend on construction of regional prisons, and the financial implications of these blowouts.

* Overcrowding, including the housing of prisoners in vans and in police and court cells, and a Corrections report that predicts continuing problems through to 2011.

* Security concerns, including 'design faults' at Ngawha Prison, escapes from Rimutaka and Christchurch prisons, and possible security implications for other prisons.

* Staff morale, including a recent vote of 'no confidence' in prison management by guards at Manawatu Prison.

* Staffing issues, including recruitment problems, the recent suggestion of criminals being employed as prison guards, and stand-downs and dismissals.

* Operational problems, including issues surrounding non-compliance with parole, and contraband and cellphones in prisons. The year of the Dog On 29 January we enter the Year of the Dog leaving behind the Year of the Rooster. That is the first day of the first lunar month sparking festivities until the closing lantern festival on the 15th day.

The event has been marked for 3000 years - longer than Christmas.

According to tradition the Dog is an ethical and idealistic sign, and the year that bears its name will also bring increased social awareness and interest in society's less powerful members. Any tendencies to take, take, take will be replaced by a widespread sentiment of generosity and selflessness.

Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose 1981 In Review
* Prince Charles got married
* Liverpool were crowned soccer Champions of Europe
* Australia lost the cricket Ashes tournament
* The Pope died

2005 In Review
* Prince Charles got married
* Liverpool were crowned soccer Champions of Europe
* Australia lost the cricket Ashes tournament
* The Pope died

Political Quote of the Week "Government's view of the economy could be summed up in a few short phrases: If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it." -- Ronald Reagan (1986)

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