Thursday, March 18, 2010

Going where no country has gone before

(First published in the Curmudgeon column, The Dominion Post, March 16.)

NOW that the heat has gone out of the global warming scare, if you’ll pardon the pun, how is our government going to justify its ill-conceived emissions trading scheme?

When the ETS kicks in later this year and people start squealing about higher power and fuel prices, how will National explain the fact that New Zealand, alone in the world, has chosen this quixotic stance?

At the time National rushed through its ETS legislation late last year, the global warming alarmists were in full cry and the government was eager to make a good impression ahead of the Copenhagen climate conference.

We all know what’s happened since then. Copenhagen was a fiasco and the discredited climate change alarmists are in undignified retreat.

The credibility of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (which National relied on to justify its ETS) has been shredded and the really serious polluters, such as China and India, are carrying on unrepentantly.

In Australia, the United States and the other developed economies with which New Zealand trades, policies to counter global warming are stalled.

Meanwhile, here’s good old Enzed going it alone with an ETS that is going to cost a huge amount – some estimates are as high as $1 billion a year – and won’t make a blind bit of difference to global warming, assuming such a phenomenon exists.

When people see their already extortionate power bills rising later this year to pay for the ETS, prime minister John Key will have to do an awful lot of smiling to convince people it was a good idea.

* * *

I GENERALLY like Americans – heck, one of my children is married to one – but I wish something could be done to check the spread of some of their more irritating expressions.

My electricity company, which I’m disposed not to like anyway, insists on sending me email newsletters exhorting me to “Listen Up!”. Nothing is more guaranteed to ensure I hit the delete key.

Whatever offers Genesis may be dangling in front of me, I’m not remotely interested in hearing from a company that addresses me in the language of skateboarders and US Army drill instructors.

Facebook, meanwhile, sends me emails that start, “Hey, Karl”, as if assuming I’m one of those people who chew gum and wear a baseball cap back to front.

Addressing me with the words “Hey, Karl” does nothing to enhance my enthusiasm for Facebook, which I have come to regard as the digital equivalent of a dog turd that sticks to your shoe and defies all attempts to shake it loose.

* * *

BELATED congratulations are due to the Dunedin District Court judge who refused to continue a suppression order on the name of former Green MP Sue Bradford’s son, who was acquitted on charges of sexual violation.

Judge Paul Kellar acknowledged it was unfortunate that the stigma associated with serious allegations was rarely erased by acquittal, but said he had to weigh up whether the harm caused by publication of the accused’s name outweighed the public interest in open justice and the freedom to receive information (as set out in our Bill of Rights Act).

That Bradford’s mother was a high-profile person was not a determining factor in his decision, Judge Kellar said. “The law should apply equally to all.”

These are simple principles that many judges seem to have difficulty grasping, judging by the suppression orders granted recently to rugby players, entertainers, businessmen and a former MP.

When I was a court reporter decades ago, name suppression was rarely requested and even more rarely granted. Hard-bitten magistrates took a lot of persuading that offenders’ names should be kept secret because their grandma was sick, or they might jeopardise their career prospects, or any other of the plethora of excuses that were commonly advanced. “Tough luck” was the usual response from the Bench.

If name suppression was then the exception rather than the rule, these days it often seems the reverse is true – especially on defendants’ first appearances, when suppression now seems almost routine.

One of the most dangerous consequences of soft suppression rulings, especially those that create an impression of protection for the privileged, is that they undermine public confidence in the courts – a risk you’d expect judges, of all people, to be acutely aware of.

* * *

I WELCOME approaches from people who might wish to join me in forming the Happy Philistines Society Inc, for people who have no interest whatsoever in attending anything to do with the International Arts Festival now on in Wellington.

Being of a curious disposition, I peruse all the articles and reviews about festival events – I can hardly avoid it, since they take up a big chunk of my Dominion Post – and I’m satisfied that I haven’t missed a thing. Better still, I have saved myself a heap of money that I can spend on worthwhile purchases like Barry Manilow CDs.

1 comment:

Baz said...

Please accept my membership to your club.(Happy Philistines Society Inc) The programme I was most pleased to miss was the three hour mime to the music of Simon and Garfunkel. Apparently punters walked out in droves at half time. Whatever I was doing at the time this performance was on, I'm sure I was having fun.