Monday, May 20, 2013

This is really not very good.

The National Party (for any non-NZers, that's the government right now) have just done a number of things of serious concern. You can read a fairly comprehensive list (and assessment of the list) by Claire Browning here.

Most alarming in my book, are the pending changes to the remit of the GCSB and the framework for paying family carers.

Again for any non-NZers, the GCSB are the spy bureau responsible for keeping an eye on foreign nationals operating in New Zealand in order to preserve our security and such. They've recently been discovered spying on NZ citizens, and the government's response is to change the law to make this OK

I've talked before about why I think this kind of law making is a Bad Idea, and my view hasn't really changed on that. What's alarming is that the underlying attitude seems to bleed through to the framework set up for the payment of family carers. There's a comprehensive explanation of that here, and a to-the-point and sweary one here, but the very very brief version is as follows:
  • A bunch of families of people with disabilities took the government to court several times over the fact that they weren't paid for looking after their family members, while a stranger they hired would have been.
  • They won, a lot.
  • The government's now put into law a provision that lets people who care for disabled family members get paid minimum wage by their local DHB if they and the person they care for meet the criteria contained in the bill. If they don't meet those criteria, the bill actually prohibits them from getting paid and (here's the kicker) prevents them from taking the government to court again if they think this bill is unfairly discriminatory*.
  • The law was passed despite the Attorney General saying it's against the Bill Of Rights, and without any of the MPs who voted actually knowing what the impact of the bill would be**.
A while back, Danyl at the Dim Post*** suggested that the National Party have pretty much given up hope of winning the next election, and are simply trying to cram through as much stuff as possible before they go. I suspect he may be right, but I'm getting pretty worried about the damage that might get done in the interim.

Edited to add:
I completely forgot to mention that National have also unlilaterally decided to ignore the recommendations of the Electoral Commission on reforming the way that MMP works. A more diverse and representative parliament would apparently not be in their best interests, which is a concern in and of itself, really.

* It is.

** This here is the Regulatory Impact Statement they got. No, really.

*** Link just goes to main page - can't remember the specific post.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Alcohol and drugs, magical thinking edition.

This right here is a link to the Oddity's pseudo-article about the "new photo craze among students" - consuming beer bongs in unusual clothes and/or places. Those wacky kids, and such.

In case you're not up on risky drinking lingo, a beer bong is the practice of pouring an entire can of beer into a plastic tube (by means of a funnel at one end) and drinking the entire thing at once. It's a) a way of getting really drunk really fast (because the whole beer hits your stomach at once) and b) consuming really awful booze without tasting it so much.

Does it strike anyone else as odd that a paper who gave so many column inches to the effort to eradicate the latest synthetic cannabis bugbear is this supportive of dangerous drinking habits? My pet theory is that they don't consider beer a drug, and thus don't consider alcohol harm as belonging in the same mental compartment as other drugs.