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Heather Roy's Diary

Posted on 22 Aug 2009

Time To Listen To The People
Last night an overwhelming majority - over 1.4million of the 1.6 million who voted in the Anti-Smacking Referendum - sent a strong message to Government. Most parents made it crystal clear that light smacking for the purpose of correction should not be a criminal offence. We all know there is a huge difference between disciplining children and brutal abuse, and Kiwi parents are tired of being told how to discipline and raise their children.

ACT is the only Party that has opposed this legislation since its inception and is the only Party now willing to listen to what the people are saying. ACT MP John Boscawen has a Bill already drafted that specifically sets out the conditions under which a light smack for the purpose of correction can be used, stating that the use of force is defined as unreasonable:

'if it should cause the child to suffer injury that is no 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.'

ACT believes this Bill should be immediately introduced to Parliament and moved quickly through the process so that good parents are no longer in danger of being criminalised. Prime Minister John Key and his Caucus could make this happen now - after all, it would just take them back to the position they held when the debate started.

It is time for the National Party to re-examine its principles and do the right thing.

Voluntary Student Membership Bill Pulled From The Ballot
This week a milestone was achieved in the battle to liberate students from Compulsory Student Membership (CSM) when - having languished there for three long years - ACT's Education (Freedom of Association) Members Bill was drawn from the Ballot.

Also known as the VSM - Voluntary Student Membership - Bill, the legislation was originally drafted and lodged as a Private Member's Bill under my name in 2006, and transferred to Sir Roger Douglas when I became a Minister and was no longer able to submit a Bill as a Private Member.

CSM has been in place since the Education Act 1989 gave university councils the power to impose and collect student association membership fees from their students. For 20 years students enrolling in tertiary institutions have had to join their association, whether they like it or not, and association fees are built into the wider institution fees structure.

In 1997, in a bid to make students association membership voluntary, National proposed the Voluntary Student Membership amendment to the Education Act - but required support from NZ First to pass it. Preferring to let students make the voluntary/compulsory decision, NZ First added a compromise to the amendment that allowed for a 'compulsory/voluntary' referendum to be held at every public tertiary provider. Referendums could only occur two years after a previous one, and only if 10 percent of the relevant student body signed a petition in support.

The first referendums were held in 1999. Auckland University became voluntary and - following referendums in 2001, 2003 and 2005 - still has VSM.

Unfortunately, these referendums are notoriously poorly run - turnout often barely reaches double figures. Student associations are also known to schedule them during holidays and times students are off-campus, and then - aided by parent organisation New Zealand University Students' Association - then spend tens of thousands of dollars campaigning for CSM, while Student Choice and other VSM groups have as little as $100 to campaign.

Today, student associations are one of only a few organisations in the country that can compel membership - and by doing so are in breach of Section 17 of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990, which guarantees the right to freedom of association.

Another problem we have seen is in the area of representation - or, in the case of some associations, mis-representation. Student associations purport to represent the views and desires of the wider student body but, in most cases, they reflect only those of a small minority - usually those involved in the senior management of the organisation.

An example of this was seen earlier this year when the Victoria University Students' Association (VUWSA) declined a Wellington City Council invitation from the to lay a wreath at ANZAC Day celebrations. While VUWSA's president claimed the association had no "official mandate from students" to recognise ANZAC Day, student magazine 'Salient' revealed that some members of the VUWSA executive opposed laying a wreath because they believed it would condone war - resulting in backlash from VUW students outraged about the attitude of an organisation that supposedly represented their views. VUW students were clearly not getting value for the money they are being forced to pay.

Another disturbing problem with CSM is around the guaranteed stream of income it provides. With students having no choice as to whether or not they pay student association fees, the associations themselves have little incentive to ensure accountability around the management of those funds. An organisation based on voluntary membership would soon lose members and funding - or cease to exist - where the executive was found to be spending inappropriately spending against the wishes, or without the knowledge, of the wider membership. Under CSM, student associations have no such constraints - the results of which can be seen in numerous cases of fraud and financial mis-management that have occurred at many student associations around the country.

It is for these reasons that the drawing of Sir Roger's Bill this week is so important - it is the first step on the road toward setting students free from a flawed and out-dated law. Students have the right to choose what university or polytechnic they attend, and what papers they take; the Education (Freedom of Association) Members Bill will give them the freedom to choose what groups they join and pay for.

Students must get behind this initiative - unless they're happy to hand money over for nothing. It is National's turn now also to 'do its bit' and support Sir Roger's Bill. While ACT has stood up for students' right to freedom of association, National has shown no commitment to doing so. The time has come for the Prime Minister and his Caucus to re-examine their principles and do the right thing.

Lest We Forget - James Stellin Gives Life For French Village (August 19 1944)
On August 19 1944, as his damaged Hawker Typhoon fighter-bomber rapidly lost height, New Zealand Pilot Officer James Stellin struggled to avoid crashing into the French village of Saint-Maclou-la-Briere. The 22-year-old succeeded, but at the cost of his own life.

Wellingtonian James 'Joe' Stellin was one of several thousand Kiwis who flew with the RAF over Europe in support of the 1944 D-Day landings. Part of the RAF 609 Squadron, Stellin flew numerous missions targeting German radar stations, tanks and transport. On August 19 1944, while returning to base, Stellin asked permission to break formation and attack a vehicle. He did not return and it is thought he was hit by flak near Bernay.

At 10am Saint-Maclou-la-Briere villagers heard Stellin's aircraft in difficulty, reporting that it was rapidly losing height. Realising the destruction the plane would cause if it were to hit the village Stellin straightened, made a half-climb, turned sharp left, fell rapidly, and crashed.

Stellin was killed and 1,200 people from the surrounding area attended his funeral in Saint-Maclou-la-Briere. To this day his grave there is decorated with flowers and in 1947 he was posthumously awarded the Croix de Guerre avec Palme. The people of Saint-Maclou-la-Briere later engraved his name on the war memorial and, in 1964, erected a black marble memorial stone to him outside their church. In 2001 the area in front of the St Maclou church was named 'Place Stellin'.


Time For The Politicians To Listen

Posted on 21 Aug 2009

ACT New Zealand Deputy Leader Heather Roy today welcomed news that 87.6 percent of the 1,622,150 New Zealanders who voted in the Anti-Smacking Referendum have exercised their right to democracy and voted ‘NO’.

“New Zealand has spoken, and now it is time for the politicians to listen,” Mrs Roy said.

“Kiwis throughout the country have spent the past two years telling politicians that they don’t want good parents criminalised for using a light smack as part of good parental correction.

“Tonight they have made their views clear once again and it is time for politicians to listen, acknowledge the message that an overwhelming majority of New Zealanders are sending and, act on it.

“Prime Minister John Key and the National Party can't ignore over 1,4 million people. He must now send an equally clear signal that Government has no right to tell parents how to raise their children and introduce my
colleague John Boscawen's Crimes (Reasonable Parental Control and Correction) Amendment Bill as soon as possible.

“To date ACT is the only Party that opposed the original legislation, and the only Party prepared to listen to Kiwis. ACT urges the National Party to do the right thing,” Mrs Roy said.


Minister Releases TOR For Special Education Review

Posted on 19 Aug 2009

Associate Minister of Education Heather Roy today released the Terms of Reference for the Government's Review of Special Education. This reflects the Government's expectations and aspirations for Special Education.

"With this in mind we aim to ensure that Special Education policies and processes are fair and consistent, reach those most in need, make the best use of existing Government funding - such as the Ongoing and Reviewable Resourcing Schemes (ORRS) funding - and make the best use of the expertise needed to support children with Special Education needs," Mrs Roy said

"Much has changed since Special Education policy was developed in the 1990s, and the Government is working to ensure that special needs students receive the support they require. To do this, I need to know what is working well and what needs improvement.

"The Review will cover services provided by the Ministry of Education, and what happens in all schools to support children with Special Education needs. It will consist of two phases:

* Phase One - to commence immediately: access to, and allocation of, Special Education funding and services for children with Special Education needs and how to implement the additional $51 million funding allocated in Budget 2009..

* Phase Two - to commence in late 2009: issues relating to workforce; transitions; service development; integration and collaboration between agencies.

"The Government remains committed to the current policy platform that underpins Special Education provision, including: the Education Act 1989; the New Zealand Disability Strategy; and the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, ratified by New Zealand last year. I intend to consult with the Education sector, parents and the disability community regarding the Review.

"ACT and National in Government are committed to widening choice in education for all students and their families, and dedicated to providing them with the opportunities and tools they need to and fulfil their potential," Mrs Roy said.


Appointment Of Team Leaders For Companion Studies

Posted on 18 Aug 2009

Associate Minister of Defence Heather Roy today announced that the Hon Hugh Templeton, Major-General (retd) Louis Gardiner, and Brigadier (retd) Timothy Brewer have been appointed to lead the three Companion Studies that will run in parallel with Defence Review 2009.

"These Studies will assist the NZDF in the increasing role it plays in supporting the Government’s objectives of economic growth, whole-of-Government strategies and increased focus on youth development," Mrs Roy said.

"The Studies to be undertaken are:

• New Zealand Defence Industry: an examination of the New Zealand Defence Industry sector and options for economic
improvement - to be led by Hon Hugh Templeton, former Minister of Customs; Trade and Industry.

• Youth Programmes: an examination of the role of NZDF in youth programmes generally, and specifically in regard to the New Zealand Cadet Force - to be led by Major General (retd) Louis Gardiner, former Chief of Army and current CEO of Crimestoppers New Zealand.

• Voluntary National Service: an examination of the concept and viability of Voluntary National service as a whole-of-Government strategy - to be led by Brigadier (retd) Timothy Brewer, former Director General of Reserves and Cadets, Law Commissioner and current Crown Solicitor for New Plymouth.

"These Studies will enable a detailed examination of several important aspects of the links between Defence and society. Hon Hugh Templeton, Maj General (retd) Gardiner and Brigadier (retd) Brewer have been selected for their knowledge and experience in the areas of their respective topics," Mrs Roy said.


Heather Roy's Diary

Posted on 15 Aug 2009

'IT Crucial To The Future Of Education
Technology advances continue to gather momentum everywhere at a remarkable pace. I suspect we have become so used to this state of affairs that we take the importance of technological progress for granted and are now somewhat immune to the way it has shaped our daily lives.

Schools are where our young people can most easily learn about IT - they are a captive and captured audience. Have we perhaps become lazy about keeping pace with advances? In doing so we may be losing valuable opportunities to teach our children effectively and equipping them well for the future.

When I visited Invercargill recently the front page of the Southland Times reported the temporary closure of one of the citys high schools. Too many teachers had swine flu to staff the school so students were being asked to stay at home and log in to the schools intranet for lessons. This was reported, almost breathlessly, as a novel new way of teaching. Yet others have been using this sort of model for some time, and not just in the static way that an intranet provides.

This week I was invited to open the new senior school buildings at the Auckland campus of Westmount School. Westmount is a Brethren school with 15 campuses around the country. All students have availability to the full syllabus the school provides, if not on the site they attend, then by video-conference. Likewise, specialist teachers are employed all around the country and deliver their lessons via video-conference.

Westmount is using ‘Moodle to create a virtual learning environment. ‘Moodle is an internet based system for delivering e-learning programmes for educational and training organisations. With a strong learning focus based on a sound style of instruction or teaching, ‘Moodle can be used to present online content for virtual classrooms - as it is at Westmount School - as well as in blended learning environments.

The system is user-friendly and multi-lingual - making it an effective teaching tool and one of the fastest-growing systems of its kind in the world.

Westmount School also places heavy emphasis on self-directed learning. If we expect adults to be self-managing, lifelong learners then encouraging self-directed learning in schools is crucial. Although the technology used at Westmount is impressive, in reality is an enabler to equipping our young people for the future.

The Brethren have received relentless and unfair criticism over the last few years. This wouldnt be accepted by a tolerant and caring society. In many areas the rest of New Zealand could learn lessons from this minority group. Westmount students are achieving significantly above the national average in NCEA and the technology used to educate their young people would be a good place to start.

I also visited the Computer Clubhouse in South Auckland where IT is being used to teach our young people skills that will set them up for the future. The Computer Clubhouse is part of the Intel Computer Clubhouse Network - established in the US in 1993. Today the Computer Clubhouse is an international community of over 100 in 21 different countries.

It is designed to provide a creative and safe out-of-school learning environment where young people from under-served communities - more than 25,000 annually - work with adult mentors to explore their own ideas, develop skills, and build confidence in themselves through the use of technology. The Computer Clubhouse initiative provides these young people with a range of opportunities - enabling them to better establish constructive dialogue, represent information and ideas effectively, and express themselves more clearly.

The Computer Clubhouse is not a place to go and do your homework. It is designed to complement learning and help young people develop skills for the 21st Century, find pathways to success, and build a commitment to community service. It does this by providing free access to high-end technology - including video design, graphic design, web design, music production and more - that these students might not be able to access elsewhere.

In South Auckland, Clubhouse members are predominantly of Maori and Pacific Island descent and all live in low socio-economic areas. There are expansion plans - more Clubhouses in Auckland and others around New Zealand, but all to serve the same demographic.

The initiative appears to be working, with young people involved reporting that they have developed greater competency in problem-solving, collaboration and use of technology. A recent independent survey commissioned by the Museum of Science found that 76 percent of active Clubhouse members have plans to continue beyond a high school education - bucking the trend of poor education outcomes and low tertiary education participation in under-served youth. Many at the group I visited reported that the Clubhouse was the only reason they turn up for school each day - its part of the deal that allows them to attend after school.

Both programmes are examples of the way we should be embracing IT in education. There is much yet to be done and without a focus in our schools innovation will be left behind in favour of a false sense of satisfaction that we are keeping apace of technology.

Lest We Forget - Brigadier Reginald Miles CBE, DSO & Bar, MC
Born in December 1892 at Springston, near Christchurch, Reginald Miles served as an artillery captain and was first wounded at Gallipoli in July 1915. He demonstrated courage and professionalism in France and received the Military Cross for his service as an artillery office at the battle of the Somme in 1916. Just a year later he was promoted to Major and given command of his own howitzer battery. In 1918, he undertook a daring reconnaissance mission at Ploegsteert Wood and was wounded by sniper fire. This earned him a DSO and, after he recovered from his wound, he returned to active service as Brigade Major of the Divisional Field Artillery.

Following the end of WWI, Miles returned to New Zealand and took command of Wellingtons harbour defences. He attended the Staff College at Camberley, England, in 1924 and then took a number of specialist artillery courses - becoming one of New Zealands leading artillery experts in the field.

In 1938, with war again on the horizon, Miles - regarded as an able commander and a capable staff officer - was selected to attend London's Imperial Defence College. He was then attached to the War Office for three months as New Zealand Military Liaison Officer and, upon returning to New Zealand, was appointed third military member of the Army Board and became Quartermaster General - taking a leading role in preparations for war. The following January he was seconded to the 2NZEF as Commander of the Divisional Artillery, with the rank of Brigadier.

In May 1940 he was given command of the United Kingdom Section of 2NZEF, deployed to counter the threatened German invasion. The following year the Divisional Artillery was posted to Greece, where Miles had to determine how best to deploy his stretched resources to defend Olympus Pass. He later organised their withdrawal and evacuation in the face of the German advance and, for his service, was mentioned in dispatches and received the Greek Military Cross (first class).

Hospitalised for exhaustion, Miles missed the Crete campaign but rejoined his division in North Africa. In 1941 he again demonstrated his skill and courage during the campaign to relieve Tobruk. The regiment lost around 275 men - the heaviest casualties suffered by a New Zealand artillery unit in a single action during WWII. Miles, who felt his guns had been needlessly sacrificed due to misunderstandings between the division and corps headquarters, was wounded by shrapnel and taken prisoner.

Interned at a high-security prison for senior Allied Officers in a mountain fortress near Florence, Miles set about devising a way to escape. In March 1943, after five months tunnelling under the castle walls with a kitchen knife and iron bars, Miles - along with fellow New Zealand Brigadier James Hargest - escaped, reaching Switzerland and making their way to Spain with the help of the French Resistance.

This daring escape made Miles a CBE and earned him a bar to his DSO. This week Brigadier Miles' complete set of medals were donated by his family to the National Army Museum.


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