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Plain English is back

23 February 2006

Plain English is back

This newsletter will continue fortnightly through the year covering local and national issues of interest to the voters of Clutha Southland. Please feel free to email me with comments or suggestions about the content.

We Don't Have To Put Up With It.

Canwest's decision to screen a gross and offensive episode of Southpark two months earlier than scheduled is a backdown. They knew they could not win the public debate surrounding it if it went on for much longer The episode was gross and offensive, not just to those of Catholic faith, but to most decent people. It crossed the boundaries of decency and respect for women. If the show portrayed any other well known woman in the way it portrayed the Virgin Mary, it would not have been broadcast, certainly not on a mainstream channel. New Zealanders generally tolerate religious satire but the combination of bad taste and religious insult made this programme deeply offensive. I believe in free speech, and free speech means people have every right to complain about low standards in the media.

Clark's Low Standards

Labour's election expenses rort is starting to eat away at Helen Clark's credibility as more of the story comes to light. She spent $400,000 of her publicly funded budget on the Labour pledge card, and then Labour failed to declare the spending as an election expense.

The media haven't caved in to Clark's usual excuse for breaking the law - "I was too busy". "I didn't notice". "It's not important". "Someone else did it". "Time to move on". The facts show that she must have known Labour's spending would break the rules, but she went ahead anyway so Labour could spend another $400,000 in a tight election campaign.

At the heart of the matter is Clark's calculated disregard for the law. It's not new. She has been investigated by the police in the Paintergate scandal and the Waimate speeding case. In each case she avoided answering questions from police and shifted the blame to other people. The police investigation into the expenses rort has just started, and Labour's attempts to throw mud at everyone haven't worked.

Keep Parents In The Dark

Labour has made it plain they believe parents who take a strong interest in their children's education are a menace. National has always supported parents exercising their full rights and responsibilities for their children at school. Parents have a responsibility to get involved, but they need to know what's going on. The tide of technology is moving in favour of parents. Avondale College now allows parents full-time online access to information about their children. A parent who knows their child is missing classes is obliged to do more about it.

Parents should also have access to information about schools which the Government is keeping secret in a secure website called "School Smart". The Ministry of Education collects up to 20 indicators of school performance and compare schools with each other. School principals can access this information but parents cannot.

Labour and many school principals are paranoid that parents will use information to compare schools. So what's wrong with that? The secret website contains information about schools finances, staff turnover, roll decline and academic achievement. It's an ideal tool. Open access to it would be a huge step forward for parental responsibility and choice. Steve Maharey has refused to change his policy so far.

Bill English


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