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News Worthy - 24 November 2006

News Worthy

24 November 2006 - No. 94

Draft National Statement on Religious Diversity

The Race Relations Commissioner is inviting public feedback on a draft statement on religious diversity in New Zealand with a closing date for responses of 15 December 2006.

There are eight guidelines which "provide a framework for the recognition of New Zealand's diverse faith communities".

The guidelines raise a host of issues. Here are two.

* How do the guidelines sit in the context of Muslim women and the veil? This is the issue which has led to a distinction between the hijab (literary "covering up" in Arabic) and the niqab (meaning "full veil").

The English translation of the relevant part of the Koran which is the subject of debate as to its interpretation by leading Islamic scholars is "Tell the faithful women to lower their gaze and guard their private parts and not display their beauty except what is apparent of it, and to extend their scarf to cover their bosom" Koran 24:31

I believe it is wholly inconsistent with contemporary mores in New Zealand society for the niqab to be worn in this country.
* Do the guidelines presage amendment of the Parliamentary prayer which the Speaker reads at the opening of each Parliamentary day? The current wording of the prayer is:

"Almighty God, humbly acknowledging our need for Thy guidance in all things, and laying aside all private and personal interests, we beseech Thee to grant that we may conduct the affairs of this House and our country to the glory of Thy holy name, the maintenance of true religion and justice, the honour of the Queen, and the public welfare, peace and tranquillity of New Zealand, through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen."

The regulatory juggernaut

A leading business commentator has noted that the amount of legislation that New Zealand businesses and households have to contend with has mushroomed over the last two decades.

The following graph shows the numbers of pages of new primary legislation (ie new Public, Private and Local Bills) passed each decade in New Zealand since 1900. Figures for the current decade are extrapolated from actual figures for 2000 to 2005. The data show that the number of pages of new primary legislation has increased dramatically over the last century. Moreover, the pace of growth has picked up markedly again after a period of deregulation in the 1980s and early 1990s.

1900s 1910s 1920s 1930s 1940s 1950s 1960s 1970s 1980s 1990s 2000s

When secondary legislation is added in, the picture becomes even more disturbing. Figures from the Annual Report of the Parliamentary Counsel Office show that in the 2005 financial year, 9,327 pages of new regulations or Acts were published. This was the highest number of pages of new legislation ever published in New Zealand's history. The growth rate in the number of pages published has been a phenomenal 25 percent per annum over the last two years - seven times the rate of economic growth.

Hard labour in jail

Recently National secured statistics about the success of prison work schemes. These showed that prisons in the Auckland region were among the worst-performers nationwide.

In the Auckland region the figures are:

* None of the 67 prisoners at Auckland Women's Prison are doing work while in prison - the worst record in the country.

* 93% of prisoners at Auckland Central Remand Prison are doing no work while in prison, with only 26 of 365 inmates involved in inmate employment schemes, the second-to-worst rate in the country.

* 91% of prisoners at Mt Eden Prison are doing no work while in prison, with only 39 of 444 inmates involved in inmate employment schemes, the third-worst rate in the country.

* 85% of prisoners at Mt Eden Women's Prison are doing no work while in prison, with only 7 of 47 inmates involved in inmate employment schemes.

* 65% of prisoners at Auckland Prison are doing no work while in prison, with only 225 of 646 inmates involved in inmate employment schemes.

Political Quote of the Week "Politics is not an exact science." -- Otto von Bismarck - German Chancellor


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