Hard News by Russell Brown

82

Those Men Again

The Standard has a good scoop: the transcript of Nicky Hager's submission to the select committee considering the Electoral Finance Bill; well part of the submission anyway. It's a clearly-voiced perspective: Hager endorses the controversial limits on third-party campaigns and asks the committee to re-introduce restrictions on anonymous donations and trusts; a more urgent issue, he contends, than third-party campaigning.

There aren't many people who would disagree that the bill before the committee is a mess and and that the removal of measures relating to anonymous money was misguided. And, although Hager strongly disagrees, that its crackdown on independent advocacy in election years is too onerous.

(NB: Nicky has been in touch to point out that he covered this in the part of the submission that wasn't published: I began my written submission and oral submission agreeing with the criticisms of the parts of the EFB that restrict freedom of speech (of course!), saying I was sure they would be fixed and that therefore I would be trying to refocus attention on the other important issues".)

It seems certain to change more than most bills at committee stage.

Hager's submission contains some extra Hollow Men spice too. Most notably, he airs a suspicion he says he couldn't back up sufficiently to include it in the book: that National had a direct hand in the design of the Exclusive Brethren's controversial campaign material. I presume the original tape features the sound of the Labour members of the committee salivating.

There's been a bit of coverage of another select committee hearing: the one into the Misuse of Drugs (Classification of BZP) Amendment Bill. Over at Blogging It Real, dc_red slams Jacqui Dean and Idiot/Savant has posted the draft of his own submission on the bill.

Personally, I'd feel more comfortable with banning BZP if I could be confident in the process to approve any new Class D recreational drugs. BZP's place in the legal market is basically an accident, and I'm sure there are more benign (and more effective) substances that could fill the role.

There's some inadequate reporting on studies relevant to the new drug-driving legislation. A story that originally appeared in The Press is headlined More drugged than drunk fatal crash drivers - ESR is, bizarrely, missing the number that would justify the headline: the total number of dead drivers who had alcohol in their system -- which was the key feature of a similar police study last year.

And there are so many caveats on the announcement from the Christchurch longtitudinal study on alcohol versus cannabis in driving that it does more to obscure the issue of road safety than anything else. Meanwhile, the director of Waikato Hospital's ED says: "It is not common, alcohol is the far bigger problem for us … There are isolated cases, but even then it is hard to separate the mixture of drugs and alcohol."

I'm inclined to agree with Metiria Turei that the new bill's exclusive focus on illegal drugs doesn't make sense when the statistics show a significant number of drivers impaired by legal substances and specifically exempts prescription drugs. The focus, as she says, should be on impairment by whatever means, and not on a new way of enforcing the Misuse of Drugs Act. But National has weighed in behind the bill, so we'll get a law that doesn't do what it says on the label.

Suzanne Schokman's report from the Media Women in Asia seminar I mentioned recently is online at the Radio NZ site, as is Kim Hill's interview with Indian journalist Sagarika Ghose. Also, David Robie has a roundup of the seminar, and his AUT students have written their own stories. It's all good stuff.

And I'm a strong supporter of the modest performance right fee that APRA levies on businesses that use music, such as cafes and gyms -- but APRA's British equivalent appears to have jumped the shark by taking a car repair firm to court because its mechanics listen to radios that are audible to members of the public. Unless there's something I've missed about this, it seems silly and counterproductive.

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