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Newsworthy 17 February 2006 - No. 61

Newsworthy 17 February 2006 - No. 61

"Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely" So said Lord Acton in 1887 in a letter to Bishop Mandell Creighton.

The hot issue in Parliament this week has quite clearly been the use of money from the Prime Minister's office to fund Labour's pledge card at the last election.

The rules are clear and the breach is egregious.

The Members Handbook of Services provides that: Funding is provided to allow parliamentary political parties to advertise their services or activities on parliamentary business. 'Parliamentary business' does not include promotional or electioneering material for the purpose of the election of any party. The Pledge Card is propaganda material, deliberately intended to attract voters.

Clearly Labour should repay the more than $400,000 involved but there are wider issues relating to the consequent election overspend. The penalty in that regard set by the Electoral Act is a fine not exceeding $4,000 and a jail term of up to one year for those responsible.

These penalties are at such a low level that they are simply a licence fee to breach the rules. As a starting point the penalty should be a multiplier of the amount of the overspend. For example, an overspend of $400,000 using a multiplier of ten would produce a sanction of $4million.

"He that spareth his rod hateth his son" - Proverbs 13:24 The so-called "anti-smacking bill" has returned to Parliament. It is a Members Bill seeking to repeal that part of Section 59 of the Crimes Act referring to the defence of reasonable force.

The section currently reads:

1. Every parent of a child and ...every person in the place of the parent of a child is justified in using force by way of correction towards the child, if the force used is reasonable in the circumstances.

2. The reasonableness of the force used is a question of fact. The effect of removing the provision is to criminalise parents. They will commit an offence under section 194 of the Crimes Act of assault on a child under the age of 14. The penalty for the offence is two years in jail.

No one doubts that child abuse is an issue that must be addressed by society but criminalising parents is not the answer.

Some have suggested that reasonable force should be defined but that is in fact very difficult to do. The sort of issues which would arise would be whether there should be a statutory ban on weapons, head blows, striking with closed fists etc.

Drinkers in decline Alcohol consumption has decreased since television and radio brand advertising was allowed in 1992, despite alcohol being more widely available (for example in supermarkets), the lowering of the legal purchasing age and the increase in international visitor numbers.

In 1990, the alcohol consumption rate per capita in New Zealand was 7.8 litres. In 2001, this had dropped to 6.89 litres, a decrease of 11.5%. In 2005 the alcohol consumption rate was 7.3 litres. The slight increase in consumption since 2001 would likely reflect the increase of the population in New Zealand and the increase in international tourist numbers, with 2.3 million people visiting New Zealand in 2004. (Source: Statistics New Zealand and BWSC, September Figures. Tourism NZ)

The industry is of course heavily involved in the sponsorship of sport, the arts and the tourism Industry.

SPARC (Sport and Recreation New Zealand), in their 2003 submission to the last Alcohol Advertising Review, estimated that sport and recreation organisations receive approximately $34 million annually in alcohol related sponsorship. They commented that sponsorship is vital to the economic survival of sport and recreation organisations.

Political Quote of the Week ""It does not require a majority to prevail, but rather an irate, tireless minority keen to set brush fires in people's minds..." - Samuel Adams - a major leader and activist in the American Revolution.

Richard Worth


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