The F-word

No, not an expletive or anything to do with Gordon Ramsey. This f-word is fraud.

Idiot/Savant at No Right Turn blogs:

Oh dear. It seems that Bill English’s housing rort to scam “expenses” to live in his own home involved telling a few lies:

Finance Minister Bill English qualified for a $700-a-week rent payment from taxpayers after signing a declaration that he had no financial interest in the trust which owned his family home.
It has been revealed that officials took concerns to the prime minister’s office about whether Mr English qualified for the payment, which is double the amount he was entitled to as an ordinary MP.

But documents issued under the Official Information Act show they were told it would be okay as long as Mr English certified that he had no financial interest in the Endeavour Trust, which owns his $1.2 million Karori property.

After he made the declaration on February 1, rent payments totalling $12,133.33 were backdated to December 1. The declaration refers to a legal opinion, which has not been made public.

According to the story, English was a joint owner of the property at the time, and did not transfer ownership of the property to his partner until March. So, at the time he made this declaration, it was false.
There is a name for this sort of thing: fraud. It’s an ugly word, but it seems to apply. And if a beneficiary or someone receiving Working For Families told similar lies to inflate their eligibility, they would unquestionably be prosecuted for it. The same should happen to English. But I forget – it’s one rule for them, another for us

Now, I wouldn’t go as far as calling it fraud – at least yet. But it’s definitely dodgy, and definitely needs investigation.

English may well have a legitimate explanation – like he thought the administrative actions involved in removing him as a beneficiary of the Endeavour Trust and removing his name from the title to the property had been completed when he signed the declaration.

But he made the declaration on February 1 this year, and applied for his additional accommodation allowance to be backdated to December 1 last year, which it was. So to have made a truthful declaration, he would have needed to believe that those administrative actions had been completed before 1 December 2008.

So there is a two month hiatus. Surely, over that time, he would have thought to check whether it had actually happened, and had happened before the 1 December 2008 date he applied to have the allowance backdated to, if he actually even intitiated them before that date.

The actual transfer of the property didn’t occur until March of this year.

So maybe not fraud, but definitely very dodgy. And in my opinion, something that should prompt the Deputy Prime Minister to either put all the evidence in the public domain or tender his resignation.

What about the evidence?

No Right Turn blogs:

Today is a Member’s Day, and the big debate today is likely to be on Metiria Turei’s Misuse of Drugs (Medicinal Cannabis) Amendment Bill. The goal of the bill is to allow people with severe medical conditions to use cannabis for pain and nausea relief – something which ought to be a straight medical question of whether it is safe and effective. But the bill muddies the waters by letting those sick people get a license to grow their own or buy it from a designated agent – something which significantly reduces the cost, but which is bound to inflame the anti-drug wingnuts.

The Health Committee recently considered this issue in response to a petition from NORML [PDF]. Despite being told by the Ministry of Health that cannabis was a safe and effective medicine for some conditions with fewer and less dangerous side-effects than medicines currently in use, the furtherest it would go was recommending that one (prohibitively expensive) cannabis-based medicine be made easier to prescribe. Based on that, I think there’s no enthusiasm to pass this bill in this Parliament. Which means that people who find cannabis effective in treating their ailments will just have to keep breaking the law.

I might be pleasantly surprised, but I suspect No Right Turn is correct – that this very sensible Bill will be voted down, despite the evidence showing that cannabis is an extremely effective analgesic in these circumstances and has far less adverse side effects and is far cheaper (free if you grow it yourself) than alternatives.

Why can’t the other parties emulate the Greens by basing their policies on evidence, rather than pandering to often bigoted and uninformed public opinion?

Protecting people from enforced disappearance

No Right Turn has a great campaign urging the government to sign and ratify the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance.

No Right Turn’s author, Idiot/Savant, has only got about 3 weeks left to collect signatures before presenting the petition to Parliament, so it would be great if we and other bloggers could do our bit by collecting a  few signatures and posting them in to No Right Turn (instructions on the link above).  Idiot Savant’s media release reads:

The Convention outlaws enforced disappearance, and requires its parties to cooperate to ensure that offenders are prosecuted or extradited to face justice. It also strengthens minimum standards around imprisonment and establishes a monitoring system to ensure that prisoners cannot disappear. So far, 73 states, including most of Europe and South America, have signed it. While the New Zealand government officially supports the Convention, it refuses to sign it, citing inconsistencies with other international law.

Enforced disappearance is the practice of detaining people, then refusing to acknowledge their detention or whereabouts, thereby placing them outside the protection of the law. That lack of oversight allows victims to be tortured and murdered with impunity. Disappearance was widespread in South America during the 70’s and 80’s, and happens today in Pakistan, Colombia, Sri Lanka, and numerous other countries. The systematic use of enforced disappearance is defined as a crime against humanity under international law.