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Heather Roy's Diary: OCR & The New Driving Laws

OCR & The New Driving Laws
Hon Heather Roy, ACT Deputy Leader
Friday, October 30 2009

OCR Remains At All-Time Low

As predicted, Reserve Bank Governor Dr Alan Bollard this week announced that he has kept the Official Cash Rate (OCR) unchanged at 2.5 percent. This is the lowest that the OCR has been in history, and Dr Bollard has pledged to keep it there until the second half of next year. It appears that he is planning to increase the OCR rapidly, rather than gradually, when the time comes.

One of the key messages that Dr Bollard delivered was that fiscal policy over the longer term should be tightened – that is, that the Government could make his job easier by reducing future levels of expenditure. If they don’t – and it seems unlikely that the present Government will - then the OCR will have to increase significantly to avoid monetary pressure.

However, changes are inevitable. Yesterday, Treasury released its Long-Term Fiscal Statement which forecast an increase in New Zealand’s net debt from around 20 percent today to over 220 percent of GDP by 2050, assuming we stick with the status quo approach to Government spending.

The Government schemes New Zealanders now rely on for support - such as superannuation, public health and ACC - are being exposed for what they are: giant pyramid schemes that require an ever-increasing population base to fund the growing number of claims. We all know that from 2011 when the first of the baby boomers start to retire, this is no longer going to happen.

Currently, 25 percent of all Government spending is on the 12 percent of the population who are 65 and over. This is set to balloon by 2050, as the number of superannuitants increase by 150 percent. The true costs of these schemes are becoming apparent and unless we take action now, it is our children who will pay the price.

The only way to address this problem is to increase productivity in health, education and welfare services. The Government must be wiling to undertake genuine reform, rather than the minor tinkering we have seen so far.

Drive Or Text – Not Both
As of this coming Sunday (November 1) motorists caught using a hand-held mobile phone will be fined $80 and receive 20 de-merit points – the same penalty as that for driving 11-15kph above the speed limit.

While any initiative designed to lower our road toll is to be welcomed, there is some question as to whether this law change will actually work to reduce the road toll and accident rates. Organisations such as the AA are already questioning its effectiveness.

The media has already reported that “police will be using their discretion as motorists adjust to the pending law that bans use of handheld cellphones while driving.” So that means that, for the time-being at least, this law does not necessarily have to be completely enforced.

Then there are the exceptions – for instance, drivers are permitted to use a hand-held cellphone while driving if they are calling 111 or *555 in the case of genuine emergency.

Police too are exempt from the law – even though it is they who should be setting the example and history has shown us that they have a concerning number of accidents.

While using a hand-held cellphone while driving is not smart (and we are all smart enough to realise the inherent danger of texting while driving), people still do it – just as they speed, or drink and drive, both of which are against the law.

The fact is that people do some very silly things while driving – some in complete disregard for the law. The UK banned cellphones while driving six years ago and still issues around 90,000 tickets annually to those who flout the law.

Legislating and regulating to solve problems isn’t always the answer and instead the focus should be on educating drivers to change their behaviour.

Lest We Forget – Mixed Gender Juries
On October 26 1942 the Women Jurors Act came into effect. This meant for the first time, women aged 25-60 could be included on the jury list on the same basis as men if they so desired.

Driven by the demands of war on the country and the fact that so many men were serving overseas, this Act was one of a number of historic milestones achieved for New Zealand woman during the 1940s. It was only a year before - in October 1941 - that New Zealand's first female police officers completed their training.

Despite the passing of the Women Jurors Act, however, very few women actually added their names to the jury pool. This lasted until 1963, when the Act was amended so that the names of all adult women were added by default - however they still had absolute right of refusal.

Over subsequent years the jury responsibilities of men and women have been equalised. Today everyone enrolled on the Electoral Roll, aged 20-65, and residing within a specific distance from a court is required to attend if summoned. If they wish to be excused, they must prove that sitting on the jury would cause them hardship or serious inconvenience.

It's a far cry from the statement of New Zealand's first ever female juror, Miss ER Kingsman, who suggested that one day New Zealand might even have female judges - an idea considered completely outlandish at the time!


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