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Newsworthy - 25 August 2006 - No. 84

Newsworthy - 25 August 2006 - No. 84

Debtors to the nation

It now seems clear that the Labour Party knew that it was in breach of the taxpayer- funding rules well prior to the 2005 elections and that the Prime Minister was not prepared to meet with the Auditor General to discuss the issue.

In a world of spin the reality is that the election spending rules are clear and that Labour's Pledge Card and brochure were clearly electioneering material. Overspending by mistake is one thing; overspending with clear knowledge that the rules are being broken is another.

Events of relevance include: * on 5 October 2005, the General Secretary of the New Zealand Labour Party in a letter to the Chief Electoral Officer, withdrew his offer to have amounts expended in respect of the "pledge card" and the associated brochure counted as an election expense * legal advice contained in a report from the National Crime Manager of the New Zealand Police dated 27 February 2006 that were a criminal charge brought against the Chief of Staff to the Labour Leader's Parliamentary office that "such a charge would likely result in a conviction". The Labour Government is now seeking by validating legislation to correct deliberate actions which might well have been responsible for its securing office in 2005 election. Small wonder that media comment has been so trenchant on the issue.

There is a further complication for the Government. Civil proceedings have been issued against the Labour Caucus members in respect of the overspend. So not only is the Government seeking by retrospective law to improve its position; it is also seeking to intervene in the judicial determination of the issues.

Is it "Working for Families" or "Welfare for Families"? An answer to a Parliamentary question has drawn little media comment but is very significant in the context of why welfare support is provided in our community. It is certainly not intended to entrench dependency patterns. Sadly that is what has occurred.

The proposition to which most would subscribe is that the provision of welfare is to provide a safety net for the less fortunate in our community.

The answer to the Parliamentary question on "the distribution of incomes for families receiving family assistance for the year ended 31 March 2005" was:

Joint family income Number of families receiving family assistance Year ended 31 March 2005

One child Two children Three+ children Total

$0 - $10,000 15,000 4,000 2,000 21,000

$10,001 - $20,000 24,000 13,000 9,000 46,000

$20,001 - $30,000 24,000 14,000 9,000 47,000

$30,001 - $40,000 13,000 11,000 8,000 32,000

$40,001 - $50,000 7,000 8,000 7,000 22,000

$50,001 - $60,000 4,000 5,000 5,000 14,000

$60,001 - $70,000 2,000 3,000 3,000 8,000

$70,001 - $80,000 1,000 2,000 2,000 5,000

$80,001 - $100,000 1,000 1,000 1,000 3,000

Over $100,000 1,000 1,000 1,000 3,000

Subtotal 92,000 62,000 47,000 201,000

Income & No of children unknown to Inland Revenue 71,000

Total 272,000

We have a situation where 11,000 families are earning over $70,000 in joint family income yet they are receiving the Government welfare package.

Rex Haig - a miscarriage of justice On Wednesday the Court of Appeal quashed the murder conviction of Rex Haig who had served ten years in prison. The decision highlights a growing concerns that a number of criminal trials go off the rails with the risk the innocent are wrongly convicted.

In December 2005 the Legal Research Foundation published a study on miscarriages of justice by Justice Thorp. He noted that the frequency of the number miscarriages of justice in New Zealand had been under-estimated.

There are three main direct causes of miscarriages of justice. * Mis-identification which internationally is believed to be the most common source of conviction error * Jailhouse "confession" evidence from prison informants * Hair and fibre comparisons which have later been shown by DNA testing to have reached incorrect conclusions Justice Thorp recommended that the task of identifying miscarriages and putting them forward for reconsideration by the courts should be given to a fully independent and appropriately staffed and resourced authority. The authority should also have responsibility for assessing compensation for wrongful convictions.

Both Scotland and England have set up independent agencies.

The stage for this debate has now been set.

Political Quote of the Week "In a moment of decision the best thing you can do is the right thing. The worst thing you can do is nothing." - Theodore Roosevelt - 26th US President

Richard Worth


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