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Maxim Institute - real issues - No 203 4 May 2006

Maxim Institute - real issues - No 203 4 May 2006

www.maxim.org.nz

TAMING THE DOG WITH MICROCHIP?

TEACHERS MISSING OUT

RE-SHAPING THE FAMILY

IN THE NEWS: GOVERNMENT TO EXPLORE ITS ROLE IN INCREASING WOMEN ON BOARDS NEW ZEALAND MUSIC MONTH PLAYS TO ITS OWN DRUM MAXIM INSTITUTE HOSTS ATLAS FOUNDATION CEO NOMINATIONS OPEN FOR SIR PETER BLAKE LEADERSHIP AWARDS

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TAMING THE DOG WITH MICROCHIP?

Controversy swirled this week around the government's intention to mandate the compulsory microchipping of dogs and the ensuing political tussle. The government claims it is responding to public concern over horrific dog attacks such as that suffered by seven-year old Carolina Anderson in 2003.

Microchips are really only useful for identifying a dog's owner. The average range of scanners to read microchips is less than two inches, which means that the dog must be caught or destroyed before the chip can be read. In most dog attack cases, the owner is known or can at least be found.

No amount of government regulation can make any dog one jot less likely to bite. Most attacks happen when owners act irresponsibly and microchipping will not reduce the number of irresponsible owners. The cost of microchipping (up to $110 each dog) will instead discourage these people from registering their dogs. Federated Farmers estimate that nearly half of dog owners do not register their dogs. We don't need another compliance cost to discourage people from following the law.

The issue becomes ridiculous when discussing farm dogs. Farm dogs do valuable work, and the investment to train a farm dog provides an incentive to care for it. In most cases, if a farm dog attacks anyone, it will be the owner, and such attacks are very rare.

Microchipping is another example of a desperate attempt by government to try and prevent harm. It is noble, but downright difficult. Grandma's mini poodle and Lassie are treated exactly the same as "Killer" the Pit Bull terrier. Such a law will add about $7 million to the costs borne by farmers, and ratchet up the registration fee for other responsible owners, with little real benefit.

TEACHERS MISSING OUT

This week, a report commissioned by the Ministry of Education and the New Zealand Teachers Council, Perceptions of Teachers and Training, caused considerable outcry and raised issues surrounding teacher recruitment and retention. Teachers, students, boards of trustees, principals and others involved in education were surveyed, and several worrying trends emerged.

Across the Western world, a crisis is looming over the recruitment and retention of teachers. Although teacher shortages in New Zealand are not at a critical stage yet, we should still be concerned.

The report found that many teachers often feel undervalued and overworked. There are also problems with pay. The report found that, "Coupled with the relatively low salaries, is the perception that teaching is a career within which advancement and remuneration for excellent performance is not possible." Sadly, this perception is based on reality. Under the current system, teachers in state schools are bound by a collective agreement which sets their salaries, irrespective of their performance. Therefore the quality of a teacher's work does not affect the amount they are paid.

A Maxim Institute report released last year, The Parent Factor: Valuing teachers, highlighted the many benefits of providing more flexible pay structures for teachers. It recommended that schools have greater freedom in determining a pay model that works within their environment. Surprisingly, this Ministry of Education report highlights the advantages flexible pay models can provide. It comments that, "Many teachers and board/committee members argued that there should be more ability to reward outstanding teachers. Principals and head teachers thought performance related pay could be a retention tool. Others believed that it would at least improve morale and send a clear message about expectations of levels of performance."

The report found that teaching was not considered an attractive career by most of the students surveyed. More flexible pay structures could improve teacher recruitment, as the prospect of reflecting the quality of work might help attract the best graduates into teaching. Teachers perform a vital role in society and have a significant influence on the future of New Zealand. Schools should be free to implement pay structures that reward and promote excellence in teaching.

To read Perceptions of Teachers and Training, please visit: http://www.minedu.govt.nz/index.cfm?layout=document&documentid=11171&data= l&goto=00-03#TopOfPage

To read The Parent Factor: Valuing teachers, please visit: http://www.maxim.org.nz/parentfactor/report2_valuingteachers.php

RE-SHAPING THE FAMILY

Attempting to gauge the impact of law on people's choices over time is tricky, but it is important-especially when the choices matters a great deal-such as forming or ending relationships or having children.

These and other decisions people make, are the focus of a recent report for the Families Commission which reviewed the literature assessing the impact of government policies on family form. The authors conclude, "There is no evidence that government policies have been a primary driver of the major social and demographic changes affecting family form that have occurred over the past forty years." The report concedes that government policy does indirectly influence people's choices, saying, "More generous welfare programs are associated with higher rates of sole parenthood and lower marriage rates". Yet, it maintains that, "The overall impact of government policies on these decisions appears to be relatively small."

Certainly, the factors affecting someone's decision whether or not to marry or have children, are varied and complex and they do change over time. Still, they do not arise in a vacuum. They are shaped by both the cultural and the legislative environment. Policy, too, can be an incentive or a disincentive for particular choices. The introduction of no-fault divorce, for example, has made it considerably easier to exit a marriage by removing many of the consequences people once faced. It is therefore no surprise that since then, the divorce rate has jumped.

The extent of the government's influence on relationship choices, compared to other factors, does not negate the need for policy-makers to consider how significant law really is in shaping the decisions people make.

To read an overview of Review of the Empirical Literature Assessing the Impacts of Government Policies on Family Form, please visit: http://www.familiescommission.govt.nz/research/empirical-lit-overview.php

IN THE NEWS:

GOVERNMENT TO EXPLORE ITS ROLE IN INCREASING WOMEN ON BOARDS

On Friday, at the conference of Business & Professional Women, Minister of Women's Affairs, Lianne Dalziel, announced that "the Ministry of Women's Affairs is looking into ways of helping the private sector replicate the Labour-led government's success in appointing capable women to boards." Ms Dalziel spoke of wanting to "work closely with the business sector" but did not specify whether the government would consider imposing regulations.

For more information, visit: http://www.beehive.govt.nz/ViewDocument.aspx?DocumentID=25580

NEW ZEALAND MUSIC MONTH PLAYS TO ITS OWN DRUM

Every year in May, New Zealand celebrates its musicians and their music, and on Sunday, Associate Arts Culture and Heritage Minister, Judith Tizard, praised the fact that New Zealand music has seen a rapid rise in air-play on commercial radio. What is encouraging is that the concept of a compulsory quota of New Zealand music on commercial radio, which was mooted several years ago, was set aside in favour of the voluntary "New Zealand Music Code". The target was set for 20 percent of music played on commercial radio to be 'Kiwi made' by 2006. Radio broadcasters have since exceeded their own targets, not because they are required to by the government, but because the music itself, is now in greater demand.

For more about New Zealand Music Month, please visit: http://www.nzmusic.org.nz/index.php/ps_pagename/nzmm

MAXIM INSTITUTE HOSTS ATLAS FOUNDATION CEO

Maxim Institute was delighted to host Atlas Foundation CEO, Dr Alejandro Chafuen, during his brief visit to New Zealand this week. Dr Chafuen gave a presentation on "Ethics, the Market and the Free Society", and discussed the role of think tanks on TVNZ's Breakfast programme.

To watch the interview on Breakfast, click on "Supporting the think tanks" at: http://tvnz.co.nz/view/page/497100/710210

NOMINATIONS OPEN FOR SIR PETER BLAKE LEADERSHIP AWARDS

Outstanding leaders need encouragement. Last year, Maxim Institute's CEO Greg Fleming was privileged to win a Sir Peter Blake Emerging Leader Award, and he is pleased to endorse nominations for the 2006 awards. Nominations for a Sir Peter Blake Emerging Leader Award, and The Blake Medal, close on 23 May, and can be made online at http://www.sirpeterblaketrust.org.

For more information, please contact Vicki Watson at: vickiw@sirpeterblaketrust.org

TALKING POINT

"When we are planning for posterity, we ought to remember that virtue is not hereditary."

Thomas Paine (1737 - 1809)

ENDS


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