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News Worthy: 10 February 2006 - No. 60

News Worthy
10 February 2006 - No. 60

Muslim cartoons

The pervasive liberal attitudes which characterise modern New Zealand (and mark us differently from Australia) are well illustrated by the decision of the New Zealand media to run the cartoons of caricature of the Prophet Mohammed

The media defence of "freedom of speech" overlooks two important points:

* Freedom of speech is not an unconstrained right. Whilst the New Zealand Bill of Rights in section 14 refers to the right of freedom of expression, there are a raft of laws which impinge dramatically on that right.
The laws of criminal contempt and defamation are clear illustrations of that.

* We still have our on statute books the crime of blasphemous libel which carries a maximum jail term of one year.

Comments and caricature ridiculing or attacking the religious beliefs of others are dangerously divisive in any community. Such comments bring unpredictable response actions from extremists and often the tacit support of more moderate adherents.

The next test will be the planned screening on 10 May of the South Park episode called "Bloody Mary" where a statute of the Virgin Mary is shown as menstruating.

The denigration of religious beliefs is wholly different from lampooning.

Chinese lanterns on Queen Street Auckland

The lunar New Year celebrations marking the commencement of the Year of the fire Dog started on 29 January and conclude on 17 February 2007.

A range of activities highlight the proud traditions of a hard working community with a history of civilization extending back more than 5,000 years. The street landscape of Queen Street is decorated by a multitude of hanging red lanterns.

We seem surprisingly ready to acknowledge non-Christian events - Chinese New Year and Diwali are good examples and the Auckland City Council is strongly supportive of such activity.

When it comes to our own Christian traditions however, different principles apply. In 1993 there was controversy over a planned nativity scene in Aotea Square, with the Rationalist Association opposing the use of $15,000 of ratepayers' money. Those decorations ended up in the care of the Baptist Tabernacle.

Perhaps this Christmas the Council under its new leadership will celebrate Christmas on one of our most trafficked streets.

School Zoning

In 2000 the Government changed school zoning laws. That decision was controversial. It involved a rigid plan of house by house and street by street zoning permitting no flexibility in the case of overcrowded schools.

In Auckland and Christchurch it had highly predictable results. Auckland Grammar School which has an educational history of 137 years and a record of academic excellence and sporting success has unsurprisingly fallen victim to Government policy.

As one of its planned steps the school has employed an enforcement officer to root out parental rorting of the system. There is nothing new in that - Epsom Girls Grammar School has had such an enforcement system for several years. The rorts classically involve sham tenancy agreements or temporary residence within the school zone.

No one doubts the merits of the principle that local children should go to their local school but for zoning systems to work satisfactorily there needs to be an element of flexibility and the case for a return to " proximity zones" is compelling. The alternative is to shrink the zone which does nothing to resolve the problem and simply creates speculative increases in land value in the surrounding residential streets.

Political Quote of the Week

"Politics is not the art of the possible. It consists in choosing between the disastrous and the unpalatable." - John Kenneth Galbraith served in the administrations of Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, John F Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson

Richard Worth

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