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Putting Names To Faces

Posted on 26 Aug 2009

My attention was caught today by the 'Dominion Post' front page article, which told of an Australian researcher who wants the public to help her identify Kiwi airmen depicted in over 100 photos found and retrieved from a military rubbish tip.

The airmen all belonged to the RNZAF No.6 Flying Boat Squadron, formed in 1942 and charged with hunting Japanese boats in the Pacific during WWII, and the search to identify them is being undertaken by Australian archivist Jenny Scott – whose father, Flight Lieutenant Alastair Scott, originally rescued the photos. Among the men photographed is Sir Edmund Hillary, who served as a navigator from 1944-45.

Such candid wartime photos are a historical treasure – especially for the families of the young men featured in them. The photo's can be viewed at and any help with the identification of the men will be welcomed. Anyone who recognises one or more of the young men in the photos can inform Jenny Scott at

Anti-Smacking Bill Pulled From The Ballot

Posted on 26 Aug 2009

After three years without a single Private Member's Bill being drawn, ACT has now had two pulled from the Ballot in a matter of days - Sir Roger Douglas' Voluntary Student Membership Bill last week and, today, John Boscawen's Crimes (Reasonable Parental Control and Correction) Amendment Bill.

This Bill - which could well be described as the Anti 'Anti-Smacking' Bill - is designed to give parents certainty under the law when it comes to the correction of their children and specifically sets out the conditions that a light smack for the purpose of correction can be used. It states that the use of force is defined as unreasonable:

'if it should cause the child to suffer injury that is more than transitional or trifling; or it is inflicted with any weapon, tool or other implement; or it is inflicted in any means that is cruel or degrading.'

The move toward amending the flawed Anti-Smacking law is gaining momentum. More than half of New Zealand's registered voters took part in the Anti-Smacking Referendum - a total 1,684,402 Kiwis. Of those, 87.4 percent - more than 1.4 million - voted 'NO', exercising their right to democracy and calling for the law to be changed. The drawing of John Boscawen's Bill today is another step toward achieving that goal and will ensure that the issue is debated properly in Parliament.

The Anti-Smacking law is a State intrusion into good parents' homes that never should have passed. Now Prime Minister John Key and his National colleagues have an opportunity to set things right and support ACT's Bill. One can only hope that they will re-examine their principles, listen to the people and do the right thing.

During Question Time in Parliament today, Mr Key announced that at 4pm this afternoon he will be making a statement as to whether the National Party will support ACT's Bill.

Awash With Ideas

Posted on 25 Aug 2009

I was very interested this week to read an article in the 'Marlborough Express' that reinforced my view that good old Kiwi ingenuity is still alive and kicking.

The article was about Adam Turnbull and Dan Melling - two aeronautic mechanics training at Woodbourne Air Force Base who, in an attempt to battle the lack of local nightlife and inspired by UK TV show 'Top Gear' - have built an amphibious vehicle in which to cross the Cook Strait.

And, so, what started out as a humble 4WD Toyota Town Ace has become - following modifications like fitting polystyrene to aid with buoyancy, and removing the driveshaft from the rear to run the propeller –'Roofliss', an amphibious van that can just top five knots at sea. It also appears that 'Roofliss' is designed to be more of a pleasure craft given that it has also been fitted with a stereo, a beer fridge and a microwave for heating pies.

I'm back down in Blenheim in the next month or two for public consultation meetings connected with Defence Review 2009. While I'm there, I hope to be able to hop on board 'Roofliss' for a look around and to meet the ingenious mechanics who have brought new meaning to the term 'voting with their feet'.

My Defence portfolio responsibilities include Defence industry but I haven't yet decided whether 'Roofliss' represents a potential Inshore Patrol Vessel or maritime air platform. Perhaps Alan Gibbs - creator of the 'Aquada' might be able to clarify this?

In The House

Posted on 25 Aug 2009

Legislation this week - August 25-27 2009

Government Bills:
Appropriation (2009/10 Estimates) Bill - Committee Stages
ACT to Support

Infrastructure Bill - First Reading
ACT to Support

Student Loan Scheme (Exemptions and Miscellaneous Provisions) Amendment Bill - First Reading
ACT to Support

Education (Polytechnics) Amendment Bill - First Reading
ACT to Support

Taxation (International Taxation, Life Insurance, and Remedial Matters) Bill - Committee Stages
ACT to Support

A more detailed rundown of Parliament this week can be viewed by clicking on 'In The House' or at

More Fairness And Choice For Consumers

Posted on 25 Aug 2009

In an age where consumers can purchase items direct from all over the global community, credit cards have become the norm.

And it's not just through the internet; many people use the plastic for every purchase - preferring to put even small day-to-day purchases on their card and paying the bill when it arrives at the end of the month.

But what many people don't realise is that there is an added cost involved, with retailers required to pay a fee for every credit card transaction - a credit card interchange fee - which they are currently prohibited from charging the relevant card-holding consumer. In order to offset this, retailers average out the cost of that fee across every item or service they provide - resulting in higher prices across the board that are then paid by all consumers whether they pay by credit card or not.

The situation is unfair on consumers who choose to pay in cash because they are, in effect, paying more to make up for the costs that retailers incur by selling to credit cardholders.

This is all about to change, however, with news today that the Commerce Commission has today settled the credit card interchange fee issue with Mastercard - just weeks after coming to a similar agreement with Visa. Under the agreements, retailers will be allowed to pass surcharges on to credit cardholders - a move which, in theory, should result in lower prices as cash-paying customers will no longer have to compensate for their plastic-happy counterparts.

Whether prices actually DO come down remains to be seen but, with the fees no longer built into the product or service price, at least cardholders will know the exact price of their transactions. This is a move that has also been hailed in the US, where the Retail Industry Leaders Association has stated: "American retailers and consumers deserve the same fair treatment that Visa now offers in New Zealand."

Transparency and competition are vital to the marketplace and to consumer confidence. Credit providers will now set their interchange fees and publicly disclose them - and retailers will decide which cards they wish to discourage or promote. The more competitive the fee, the higher the proportion of retailers who accepts it, and the more popular it will become with consumers - who it is hoped will benefit most in the form of lower prices, and increased fairness and choice.

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