It was interesting to hear today the reasoning behind the name suppression of the Rena captain and second officer. Apparently, it’s because we’re all so upset that someone might lynch them if their names were published.
Well, they have been – just not here. So while that might sound like a good reason to give name suppression, it doesn’t work in the real world. But it is good to hear that there is at least a semi-valid reason to suppress their identities.
It reminded me of something I heard on the radio the other day.
If you recall, a man tried to jump into Parliament’s chamber. Now, John Key didn’t distinguish himself in the incident (and Labour could do well to recall that it’s the second fellow who starts the fight, they missed a good opportunity to shut up and be dignified) but I want to talk about what happened to the Herald.
The Herald‘s Audrey Young, sitting in the Press Gallery nearby, knowing news when she saw it, snapped a photo on her phone of the ensuing struggle as security guards and members of the public attempted to stop the man from going over the edge. The Herald, also knowing news when they saw it, published it. And as a result, Lockwood Smith has now banned them from reporting from Parliament for two weeks.
Publication of the photo was clearly in breach of Parliament’s Standing Orders, which prohibit filming or photographing interruptions from the gallery.
So the Herald broke the rules and got punished.
Now, the view across the blogosphere (as my limited reading of it anyway) was pretty much along the lines of No Right Turn:
This decision is not demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society which respects the freedom of speech and allows the public to see what is happening in their legislature. But sadly, no court can overrule the Speaker here. The British Bill of Rights Act 1688, which asserts the supremacy of Parliament, prevents it. Which makes the Speaker effectively a king, possessed of unreviewable and uncontrollable power. We need to change this.
Secondly, this shows that our Parliament is still in some ways stuck in the mindset of the eighteenth century, regulating itself like an exclusive gentlemen’s club with public scrutiny permitted by grace and favour, not as of right. This too has to change. It is not the Speaker’s House – it is our House, and we have an absolute right to know and see what happens there.
I realise that in some sense Parliament is a bit of a club. But when someone describes it as an old-fashioned old-boy’s club where the whole thing is to protect members…. well, we all know that it hasn’t been that way for many years. That explanation doesn’t satisfy me.
Then on The Panel that Friday, someone pointed something out.
Yes, Parliament is a public place, and we all have the right to know what goes on there. But what we want to know is what laws are passed, and what speeches are made. That is, must, and should be published freely.
However, because of that intense scrutiny parliament also potentially generates another type of news. That’s when someone comes to parliament and breaks the rules in order to make the news. Reporting on that is actually against the public interest.
Well, I’ve been to parliament several times. The first time I went there, the Englishman I went with commented that one could have quite easily have walked in with a gun and started shooting MPs. That has changed (they now have metal detectors), but the chamber remains remarkably open.
This is a good thing.
However, should people wanting to make a political point get the idea that all they have to do to get on the news and make a splash is to walk into the public viewing chamber and make a scene, then that actually makes it harder for New Zealanders to experience our parliament.
On The Panel, the person making these points also pointed out that the Christchurch Press used to report on vandalism around the city. When the newspaper stopped reporting it, the incidents of vandalism dropped dramatically.
So I’m with the Speaker on this one. I for one would have full access to the debating chamber, and have the opportunity to see parliment in action with my own eyes. It would be a shame to have that ruined because of some false sense of “freedom of the press” that merely served as a platform for any idiot with an agenda.
I was going to fisk this post. Ok, maybe I will.
With the Rena now likely to sink and spill the rest of its fuel and cargo across one of our busiest ports and favourite holiday spots, its worth thinking about the future. Beyond the immediate cleanup, what policies can we put in place to prevent or mitigate such messes in the future?
Or to put it another way how can the left make political hay out of this tragedy.
For a start: 1. No deep sea drilling 2. Invest in infrastructure & capability of Maritime NZ… Also better engagement with communities when disasters do happen.
All of which seem like good ideas.
…and all of which are actually idiotic ideas.
The Rena has exposed the sheer inadequacy of Maritime NZ’s oil spill management plans, which are gone into in some detail by Brian Rudman in today’s Herald. Their three-tier response model places a significant part of the responsibility on organisations which either do not care (polluters)
Well, by definition polluters don’t care. But that’s irrelevant. Minor spills are cleaned up by those who create them, we are um, talking about a major spill here. Remember?
or are not properly equipped to deal with serious spills (regional councils).
Again, as Brian states (and Idiot ignores) regional councils aren’t supposed to be equipped to deal with serious spills.
Equipment needed to deal with severe spills is stranded in Auckland and takes significant effort to transport.
What a stupid idea, putting the equipment where it’s most likey to be needed!
The result is that they are effectively helpless when a big incident comes along.
Well, when a big incident comes a long in the wrong place it’s going to take some more organisation to get the spill cleaned up. But listening to the people who actually know what they’re talking about these things always take time and our response has actually been pretty fast.
Which in turn make the government’s plans to allow deep-sea drilling, with all the risks that that entails, pure madness.
I’m pretty sure that when someone saw the first plane crash back in 1903 or something, they declared that flying was pure madness too. But we move on and learn from every disaster, and today air travel is safer than it’s ever been and has made the world a much smaller (and one would suggest better) place.
As for the public, as we saw on Monday morning when oil began washing up and was left to locals to clean up (with no warning or guidance from officials, let alone organisation or reassurance that something would be done soon), the government’s communication has been… lacking.
Yea, outside of all those warning to stay off the beach, and reports about how the cleanup would begin when the slick proper hit the beaches, all the warnings about how toxic the oil… why, there’s been nothing at all!
Wait, could it be that people have just been pigheaded and short sighted at the first sign of oil on “their” beaches? No, it must be The Fault of the Government.
I hope the above sounds mad. Because I am mad when someone lies like that. The fact is that officials did give both warnings and guidance. People refused to listen. The government was very clear – this is a big job, handling a large, toxic mess which has only just started. But people got so panicked at the sight of small amounts of oil on the beaches that they lost sight of the fact that oil was going to be there for weeks to come.
But there are other things we can do too. For example, its hard to understand how a ship can run aground on a charted reef in calm weather, unless the crew were negligent.
So we should tell every ship’s captain we meet to be careful.
The ship’s captain has already been charged with operating a ship in a dangerous manner, and the penalties there are appropriate for individuals. But clearly there’s a regulatory problem here as well. There are also issues around penalties for spills – the Maritime Act allows for a fine of up to $200,000 for a discharge of a harmful substance from a ship, while the RMA allows for fines of up to $600,000 for discharging contaminants without a resource consent, with strict liability. But that’s SFA to a shipping corporation,
Well, it’s not a trivial sum. But I agree that the maximum fine for this sort of thing needs to be drastically upgraded for large incidents like this.
and likely to be lower than the cost of running a ship safely so that it does not leak oil everywhere.
If you recall, Idiot once said that airlines would fly their planes in dangerous conditions deliberately because, heck, they were insured if they crashed.
He doesn’t seem to get the idea that companies lose money when stuff like this happens, that their reputations suffer and the lose profits because they aren’t delivering cargo. Let’s face it: even the most profit hungry and well insured shipping company in the world would never suggest that a ships captain take a shortcut over the location of a known reef.
Oh, and then there’s the fact that this ship isn’t leaking oil because it wasn’t maintained, or because costs were cut, it’s leaking oil because some idiot drove into a well marked reef. The cost difference in running a ship that runs into a reef and one that doesn’t is zero – a turn of the ships wheel.
So we need far better regulation of shipping, and far higher penalties for breaches, with actual enforcement so that captains and companies know they will face those penalties. Anything less is just inviting this to happen again.
Sadly, none of that changes one simple fact – sometimes people are stupid.
You could have a thousand regulations designed to stop ship’s captains from steering their vessels into the only reef in the harbour, but one day, someone is just going to not bother looking where he’s going.
…and occasionally some of them actually fulfil their goals.
Then we take Auckland? The Occupy Wall Street movement seems to have spawned its own local imitators. First, we have Occupy Auckland, which is planning to occupy Aotea Square starting from Saturday. Then we have Occupy Wellington, which is planning to do the same to Civic Square and then the Reserve Bank. Other protests are apparently planned for Hagley Park in Christchurch, the Octagon in Dunedin, as well as New Plymouth and Invercargill. So, if you want to protest against inequality and economic insecurity and for greater democracy, then turn up, if only for a little while.
Please feel free to sit in the Octagon or Hagley park. Perhaps while you’re there you could abuse a passing banker.
Once you are sufficiently cold, you can then head home, knowing that you have achieved something.
That is, you’ve made a person with common sense think you’re an idiot.
(See this is what you get when you start rejecting profits.
First, you start doing things that aren’t quite worth doing. Next, you do some things that are pretty useless. Finally, you just sit around getting your backside frozen and convince yourself you’ve just saved the world by making some sort of massive statement.
But like someone said, reality doesn’t care if you don’t believe in it.)
Thought I’d share my wisdom on the policy front.
Crime: Add into the justice system a “career criminal” classification, where someone who clearly has no interest in being a member of society is treated differently in the system to ordinary folks who happen to have committed a crime. For the high end, we currently have preventative detention, but this doesn’t cover the lower end where someone may have decided that petty crime is easier than working for a living. I don’t necessarily think that means such people should be locked up forever, but even that’s a better idea than letting them go simply to have to go to all the expense of putting them back inside.
(After I wrote the above I actually wondered if there is already something like this. Maybe there is?)
Treaty Issues: Decree that in 100 years, all land is returned to the local maori tribe. That way there’s no arguement of “insufficient compensation”. Token rents to start in 50 years, working up to full market rents. The time frame gives plenty of time to sort out the details in the meantime, and lets face it we’ll all be dead by then so who cares? It’s taken 150+ years to get into the current mess, so why are we in such a hurry to sort it out?
Health: Give people the option of having their public operation immediately, by the government loaning the money now rather than waiting until it’s available with the beneficiary paying the interest calculated (at govt rates) on that loan up front. So instead of taking a year to wait for funding to come available for a $10,000 operation, the patient can pay $400 (4%) to have it now.
In addition, separate out taxes for health into a separate levy. This can be discounted for people purchasing private health insurance at a rate which still leaves the public system better off.
Road Safety: Young people (under 25) have to have an endorsement on their licence in order to be allowed to drive a car over 1.5l engine size. Endorsement should be conditional on having done 100 hours of community service and good character references, and revoked if involved in any boy racer activities.
Also, rename the learner’s licence to learner’s permit. It’s not a licence. Even better, print it on an A4 size card.
Referendums: Bring the tough choices to the people. If people seriously want to mortgage their children’s future, then let them vote for that, if they want the government to live within it’s means, give the government a direct mandate to cut wasteful programs.
Social Welfare: Give a reasonably decent benefit for a mother with one child, with no or trivial increases for each subsequent child.
People who have a consistent policy of trashing state houses should be placed in spartan units with concrete walls and floors etc. Include under floor heating, but no carpet or anything that can be ruined by staining. Include a classroom to teach practical life skills every night.