Faces of the day

We need systematic change in the Muslim world

-Nazie Eftekhari


Nazie Eftekhari was born in Iran, and is a board member of the Iranian-American Political Action Committee as well as founder and CEO of The Araz Group. Hear her unique perspective on growing up in Iran, how the 1978 revolution impacted women and what she’s doing to continue to fight for equal rights for any and all oppressed communities.

She is one of a number of human rights activists who joined together to make the Honor Diaries:

  1. Sixteen year old Education activist, Malala Yousafzai who was shot in the head by the Taliban.
  2. Muslim-American human rights activist Raquel Saraswati
  3. Nazanin Afshin-Jam, President of Stop Child Executions
  4. Raheel Raza,? the author of “Their Jihad…Not My Jihad,” professional speaker, President of the Council for Muslims Facing Tomorrow, and founder of Forum 4 Learning, which promotes learning in the fields of cultural and religious diversity and interfaith harmony.
  5. Manda Zand Ervin, Founder and President of the Alliance of Iranian Women, is an Iranian political refugee working to bring attention to the plight of Iranian women under Islamic Sharia laws.

You can listen to them all but if you only have time for one speaker, make it Malala Yousafzai the 16 year old who was shot in the head by the Taliban.

Yes it does

Tau Henare posts on Facebook:

Good points, and they have merit.

Though Maurice Williamson has a similar if not longer parliamentary pedigree. Can’t wait till Hooton chucks up the stocks on iPredict.

That’ll improve behaviour, yeah right

As is typical of all MPs instead of addressing the issue they change the rules to suit themselves:

MPs have moved to further restrict what can be shown and heard on Parliament’s television channel, including “ambient sound” and close-up shots of what MPs are doing when that is “unrelated to proceedings”.

The new rules, recommended in a report by Parliament’s standing orders committee, chaired by Speaker Lockwood Smith, include a number of minor technical changes.

But taken together they may have limited some coverage shots during the incident last week when a man tried to jump from the public gallery into the House.

Coverage of that incident included a mid-range shot of Prime Minister John Key looking aghast and general shots of MPs jumping to their feet.

Microphones also picked up Labour deputy leader Annette King telling colleagues underneath the man to “move” and then shouting “scumbag” across the chamber at Mr Key after he suggested the incident was Labour’s fault and made what appeared to be a throat-slitting gesture.

The new rules state: “Shots unrelated to proceedings of the House are not permitted, that is, interruptions from the gallery and business occurring outside the House,” and add that “no close-up shots are permitted of members’ actions and interactions that are unrelated to proceedings”.

What a bunch of pompous wankers. They don’t want?scrutiny?of their poor behaviour so instead of moderating their behaviour they change the rules to prevent anyone from seeing it.

We need more scrutiny of parliament not less, this is a retrograde step and another black mark against Lockwood Smith who looks more interested in protecting?parliamentarians?than the the public he is meant to serve.

Why Ethics in Government Matters

National are spinning the message voters don?t care about Pansy Wong?s travel scandal, or minor things like this. They are right on the smaller issue of the travel scandal, but wrong about how this matters.

John Key talked extensively through 2008 about mood and feeling and how important that was to change a government. This mood and feeling does not come about by accident, unless the opposition is useless and cant smack up the government.

What changes momentum rapidly is a view that a government is unethical. It is a mood swing that is hard to reverse, and a good opposition bashes away with seemingly small scandals that build this mood.

National may think that guys like Hodgson are total arseholes going on about stuff that doesn?t matter. This is insular thinking that will bite National, as there will come a time when there are enough scandals to make the swinging voter think National are unethical, and they might as well give someone else a chance. The next lot will suffer from the same process, essentially because politicians are stupid and do dumb things.

Richard Worth, Pansy Wong and Phil Heatley have all eroded a little of National?s credibility. So will the next scandal, and the one after that. Then comes the tipping point when voters think it is time for change.

In line with that I see that?the?Law Commission has recommended and John Key has agreed that an?independent?body should be set up to administer MPs salaries, perks and entitlements.

Prime Minister John Key has moved to give the Remuneration Authority more control over setting MPs’ perks and entitlements after a further call for an end to the days of MPs having control over their own entitlements.

Mr Key announced the government would introduce a law change to give the Remuneration Authority control over setting MPs’ entitlements beyond the base salary.

This will go some way to alleviating the fox in charge of the hen-house arrangement that currently exists. Predictably, since he is totally out of touch and too full of his own importance, Lockwood Smith hasn’t taken kindly to the loss of control.

The report says Parliament’s Speaker, Lockwood Smith, has “real reservations” about an independent body setting MPs’ entitlements.

“He is particularly concerned that an independent body would not understand the needs of Parliament,” it says.

“His strong preference would be to continue to use the mechanism of the Speaker’s Directions which are flexible, easy to amend and draw on the experience of the Speaker.”

Sir Geoffrey said the report carefully reflected Dr Smith’s view “but we don’t agree with it”.

Sometimes I despair at Lockwood’s pomposity, talking about the “needs of Parliament” like they are “special needs”. Given some MPs are indeed challenged maybe he is a little bit right on that. Sir Geoffrey Palmer, a man i seldom have any time for, though, has another little surprise for Lockwood Smith.

The commission also says the Parliamentary Service, which makes payments to MPs, should be opened to the Official Information Act (OIA).

This has been previously rejected as well, although parties have started voluntarily issuing details of their MPs’ expenses.

“While the move to greater transparency is commendable, and provides more information about the total spending of MPs, in some respects the disclosure still lacks transparency,” it says.

“The figures do not distinguish between domestic and international flights, or separately identify travel paid for an MP’s spouse or partner and dependant children…clearly, a voluntary regime is not the same as a statutory requirement.”

What a splendid idea. Pity Lockwood Smith didn’t listen to me in?the?Koru Club a couple of months back when I suggested that if he wanted to become a great Speaker he would do exactly that. He didn’t listen and now he won’t be a great Speaker. Now it is Sir Geoffrey Palmer that will take the kudos and the credit for the suggestion of opening up Parliamentary Services to the OIA.

These are all steps in?the?right direction, even though old troughers like Lockwood Smith have?opposed?them tooth and nail. The bring greater clarity and greater transparency to parliament. But none yet have taken up the suggestion to have an?Independent?Commission Against?Corruption. This would be the ultimate?step?in cleaning up parliament of troughers and rorters. it is a step that needs to be taken. here in New Zealand we have the Speaker handling an inquiry into rorts like Chris Carter, three suits Clayton Cosgrove, Richard Worth, Pansy Wong and Phil Heatley. In Australia they have the ICAC.

The Labor MP for Drummoyne, Angela D’Amore, has been sacked as a parliamentary secretary, but the Premier is refusing to call for her resignation from Parliament after the corruption watchdog found she acted corruptly in falsely claiming thousands of dollars in entitlements for two staff members.

The Independent Commission Against Corruption is also recommending that the Director of Public Prosecutions consider bringing charges against Ms D’Amore, who served as parliamentary secretary to the minister for police and the minister for environment, for two offences of misconduct in public office.

The commission found Ms D’Amore and a staff member Agatha La Manna “engaged in corrupt conduct by falsely claiming sitting day relief payments”.

It recommends “action be taken against Ms La Manna as a public official with a view to dismissing, dispensing with or otherwise terminating her services”.

There is a huge difference between how our parliament handles rorters and how Australia handles them. We seriously needs such a commission here, and we need its purview to be over Parliament and all local bodies and the state sector. I’d relish an ICAC looking into Len?Brown’s?appointments processes for CCO?boards. ?If John Key can move that which was previously under the control of parliament and the Speaker to an?independent?body then why not this step? If the Law Commission can see merit in opening up Parliamentary Services to the OIA then why not an ICAC?

Clarity, transparency and sunlight will give us a much better?democracy.

Lockwood backs down

Lockwood Smith has backed down after painting himself into a corner over transparency.

Speaker Lockwood Smith has caved in to pressure to release MPs’ spending on their travel perks after political parties rebelled against his initial stance by releasing their own expenses.

Today Dr Smith re-issued the last quarter’s expense disclosure with the cost of MPs’ travel perks included again.

He said he would continue to include the costs of that travel in the future.

In a statement he said he had released the full set of expenses because of confusion created by the decision of some parties to release their own expenses.

Good stuff. Now perhaps he might get back on track to being a great Speaker like we discussed the other week, by opening up all of Parliamentary Services spending to the OIA, especially the Leaders offices of all political parties. Let’s see how?committed?Labour and the Greens are to transparency now, not just on travel expenses but all spending inside parliamentary services. I suspect their?commitment?to transparency is decidedly hollow.

Newspapers Agree. Lockwood is a tool

Now Lockwood is going to be list only, I am considering rejoining National so I can rank him last at regional list ranking next year.

His dumb approach to trying to put the genie back in the bottle on the travel perk has bought him the distain of the editorial pages.

The Press says:

All of what MPs receive is public money and as such should be subject to the greatest transparency possible. Instead of a murky mish-mash that may or may not be subject to misuse, it should be clear what MPs are being paid without resort to trade-offs or any other such potentially mystifying devices.

The Herald also kicks him square in the nuts

Parliament has done a disservice to itself and to the public interest with a decision to conceal the costs of each member’s subsidised holidays overseas. The new rules announced by the Speaker, Lockwood Smith, can only lessen Parliament’s standing in public estimation and feed the suspicions of those ever ready to believe the worst of politicians.

The Dominion points out the obvious to all those that don?t live in the parallel universe Lockwood lives in;

The ongoing furore over MPs’ travel expenses is the price MPs pay for refusing to surrender control of their pay and perks. It is a price successive Speakers have been happy to pay, but it is not one the public should tolerate.

MPs’ pay and perks should be set by an independent body that takes account of comparable pay rates here and overseas, the state of the economy and workloads.

Someone needs to take Lockwood out the back and hit him hard with a bit of four by two until he sees sense.

Sweeping away a culture of secrecy

Jut after a weekend where we had our Speaker of the parliament re-impose secrecy oer MP travel spending and his constant refusal to even entertain opening up more of Parliamentary Services to the Official Information Act we have some interesting news from across the Tasman where the Federal Government is sweeping away the veil of secrecy.

Information is powerful. Very powerful. It can dispel myths and reveal the true nature of things. It can shed light on events and provide a better understanding of the decisions that have shaped our nation.

When the pieces are put together, information can reveal scandals, shine light on corruption and maladministration and even bring down governments. But equally, some information can place lives at risk and compromise a nation’s security.

Valid questions about the publication of sensitive information have been raised with the release of information about the Afghanistan and Iraq wars on the website Wikileaks.

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The Freedom of Information Act is one of the most powerful tools Australians have to get government information – about themselves or about issues of community concern. Importantly, the act also governs what cannot be released, so to protect the national interest and Australian lives.

But far from being afraid of information, we should embrace the free flow of it as a feature of a democratic nation wherever possible. And that is the approach we’ve taken on disclosure.

This is from Brendan O’Connor the Labor Minister for Home Affairs, Justice, Privacy and Freedom of Information in Australia. But wait his statement gets better.

Since coming to office, Labor has conducted the most extensive overhaul of the Freedom of Information Act since its inception, and the first tranche of those changes takes effect today.

But why is this needed? The fact is, in the decade before Labor came to office, a culture of concealment and suppression crept in, and the nation moved away from an attitude of disclosure, transparency and accountability.

What’s not secret is that this attitude of arrogance and avoidance of accountability wasn’t lost on the Australian public. It contributed in no small part to the downfall of the Howard government.

The Coalition’s practice of issuing conclusive certificates under the Freedom of Information Act was profound in its effect, successfully locking up information to prevent its release. Labor takes a starkly different view. We are determined to restore community trust in the way information is handled by government with major reform of the act.

We have already abolished ministers’ use of conclusive certificates to block access to information, but we are going much further.

Ignoring the political statement at the front it is stil?admirable?that they are attempting to remove “a culture of concealment and suppression”. Pity Lockwood Smith doesn’t believe in open-ness. But here is a template for open-nes we could easily adopt.?Emphasis?is mine.

At the core of the freedom-of-information reforms is a somewhat overdue recognition that government information is a national resource. Just like our water, minerals and beaches, information is not owned by one person but is an asset for our free and democratic nation to share.

A wholesale revision of the way freedom-of-information requests are treated begins today. A single public-interest test will override previous exemptions and new processes will compel a culture of disclosure.

We know application fees can be a deterrent. That is why, from today, there will not be any application fee for an FOI request or a subsequent internal review. Importantly, people seeking access to their own personal information will no longer have to pay any fees whatsoever.

The first five hours of decision-making time will now be free for all, slashing the expense previously faced by would-be applicants.

Probably the most controversial element of the new laws is the so-called ”disclosure logs”, which will operate from May next year. This will see responses to FOI requests published on ministerial and department websites within 10 days of disclosure to the applicant – for all to see. This is consistent with a new pro-disclosure culture where government information is owned by the public.

And with a new rulebook comes new umpires. Today, Professor John McMillanwill take up the role of Australian Information Commissioner – an independent adviser on government information.

He will be supported by the current Privacy Commissioner and the newly created Freedom of Information Commissioner. Together, they will be advocates and enforcers of the nation’s approach to FOI and privacy.

With these reforms, the Gillard government is ushering in a new era of openness. There’s an oft-quoted saying that sunshine is the best disinfectant. With this new approach, we’re opening the curtains that have been closed for so long and letting the daylight reveal our nation as it is.

John Key should cal in Lockwood Smith and give him a good smacking. If Labor in Australia can implement this then why not Labour in New Zelaand support similar changes? If the big parties won’t then how about The Greens or Act embracing changes like this?

The pity is that parliament is run by the politicians, literally the foxes are in charge of the hen house. They don’t want their secret deals exposed, they don’t want public scrutiny. In aAustralia on top of all these changes they also have the ICAC (Independent?Commission Against Corruption), we have no such protections from the rapacious and secret actions of our politicians.

It is time for some sunlight here in New Zealand. Instead of a Speaker unilaterally re-imposing unconscionable secrecy and a Justice Minister trying to control the internet we should be embracing open-ness and honesty. We should be passing laws like Sweden and Iceland have to protect sources, to welcome freedom of information and have ?a goal to have the most open parliament int he world.

The Herald would be far better running a campaign to open up our parliament to the OIA than a silly two drinks max campaign.

Add Peter Dunne to the hit list

Peter Dunne has now managed to make it to my hit-list. An un-official list of useless MPs past their use-by date who are usually troughers as well.

He has come out all po-faced, no doubt with his cow-lick at high dudgeon, supporting useless Speaker Lockwood Smith and his re-imposition?of un-conscionable secrecy of parliamentary spending.

United Party leader Peter Dunne said the Speaker had made the “right decision” and he would be abiding by the rules to keep his travel spending secret. As a long term member of parliament Dunne qualifies for a 90 per cent rebate.

“The rules are set and I think it’s important that people abide by them,” said Dunne.

Here’s a though, how about letting an independent body set the rules instead of the current system where the fox is in charge of the hen house.

Rodney Hide, to his credit, ?has come out against the Speaker’s new rules, ironically after he was pilloried by the same Speaker releasing information in the first place. One would have to wonder if Speaker Smith was trying to hurt Act when he released the information in the first place.

John Key also has opposed Lockwood Smith’s sudden turn around, refreshingly calling for more transparency, as have the Greens. They are to be commended for their?commitments to transparency.

However, Hide said yesterday there needed to be more openness about public spending.

“I don’t think they can put the genie back into the bottle. People have an expectation around transparency and accountability these days,” he said.

He was was joined by Greens Party co-leader Metiria Turei, who is calling for an independent review on MPs’ remuneration.

The Greens led the transparency process when they released their expense details last June, following a Herald on Sunday campaign to hold politicians accountable for their spending.

Turei said the existing system was “messy and incoherent”.

“The Speaker continues to refuse to have independent review of the system so we can clean it up,” said Turei. “The Speaker is responsible for that and he should lead on that.”

Personally I think that Lockwood Smith has planned a great big trip for Christmas for him and his long time secretary and didn’t want to be hung out to dry. One thing is for certain though, his bid to become a scum list MP is now almost certain to backfire with a lower than expected list ranking after going against Prime Minister John Key’s wishes.

We need to go even further with transparency, opening the whole of Parliamentary Services up to the Official Information Act, particularly over expenditure. We won;t see any action though unless a public campaign is mounted because there are far too many vested interests who will spike any efforts for more transparency. Labour will oppose it because they largely run their party out of the leaders office, including advertising and polling, likewise National.

So far the Greens, even though they have their own rorts with housing and super-annunation are the only ones calling for more transparency.

From hero to zero, time for the axe on Lockwood Smith

The other day when I went to Wellington I spent a bit of time talking to Lockwood Smith in the Koru Club.

I asked him if he wanted to be known as a great Speaker. The discussion then centred around how the low the bar had been set before him taking the position. But the point I was trying to make was that he should be looking at making Parliamentary Services more open and the way to do that would be to extend the OIA in the interests of transparency.

He utterly refused and at the same time pointed out that he released travel details. His reasoning was that what MPs do in their private time was of no interest for anyone and nor should it. I pointed out that it was never private time at the office, that all the resources that they use is paid for by the taxpayer and as such is not private. He disagreed strongly and we parted with me commenting that I guess he was never going to be a great Speaker.

It is with some interest now that I see the very thing he was patting himself on the back over, MPs travel expenses, he has now deemed to be “private” even though we the taxpayer foot the bills.

Parliament’s Speaker has introduced new rules preventing public disclosure of individual MPs’ spending on tax-payer funded overseas jaunts.

The change mean trips like those taken by Rodney Hide and his partner to Hawaii and through Europe last year are now secret.

Mr Hide admitted at the time that he made a mistake, but Speaker Lockwood Smith today said the matter was private and should never have been made known to the public.

“It is taken out of members’ salaries and it is private,” Dr Smith said.

“It is not a public expense, it is a private matter.”

Well, Mr Speaker, you were doing so well and now you have gone and crapped all over your reputation. Not surprising though given that you have decided to become a scum List MP at the next election.

You are also a hypocrite, given our conversation on Thursday evening and for that you now make the Whale Oil Beef Hooked target list of MPs that need close attention. You are, as they say in Texas, “Big Hat, no Cattle”. Yes, yes I know you like your bulls but in this case you are full of bull by suggesting that things the taxpayer pays for are “private”.

Actually I hink you should be added to the Dead Wood page, MPs that should be chopped as being of no use to man or beast.

Killer Queen strikes at Wishart

Helen Clark has gone too far. Download clarkdeathwish.mp3

[quote]PRESENTER: I wonder what would happen if Mr Wishart was burgled or assaulted, who would he be first on the phone to?

CLARK: Oh he would be bleating to the police, you know, the same people whose reputation he's trying to destroy.

PRESENTER: Well let's just hope the 111 lines are clogged.

CLARK: Might be death to him.

PRESENTER: Righty-oh, Helen Clark thanks for your time.

CLARK: Good on you.[/quote]

No Good on you Prime Minister, time to go.?