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Bull Dust

Former Press political editor and Stuff blogger Colin Espiner is back from a stint across the Ditch with plenty of bull dust - and not just in his clothes. In his Bull Dust blog, he casts a fresh eye on current events, politics, the media, and anything else that takes his fancy.

Brendan Horan: The accidental independent MP

03:15pm 15 Jan 2014

COLIN ESPINER

I'd love to think that Brendan Horan appreciated the irony of his declaration that he intends to set up a political party to represent independent MPs. 

It's a move clever and funny enough to have been dreamed up by a class-act satirist such as Danyl Mclauchlan's Dimpost or Ben Uffindell's The Civilian.

But alas, I suspect the former New Zealand First MP and television presenter possesses neither the wit nor the intelligence to realise the self-contradiction inherent in his desire to form a grouping of those who desire no group. 

In case you have no idea who Brendan Horan is (and I wouldn't hold that against you) he's the list MP chucked out of NZ First by leader Winston Peters over allegations he nicked money from his late mum's bank accounts. 

The executor of Olwen Horan's estate made some inquiries but couldn't establish any basis to the claims against Brendan Horan from other members of the Horan clan, so agreed to furnish him with his share of her estate.

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Espiner: Lessons of Pike River

05:00am 16 Dec 2013

COLIN ESPINER

For a nation with the dubious distinction of having one of the highest rates of imprisonment in the western world, we're remarkably reluctant to lock up anyone from the big end of town.

This may have something to do with the fact that those whose collar is more white than blue are more likely to be able to afford lawyers with the letters QC after their name. It's also partly because criminal cases involving corporate types tend to be complicated, drawn-out and expensive.

But it's also due to the fact that our laws - particularly the 1961 Crimes Act - are not just inadequate but biased in favour of those who either swindle investors out of their life savings or bring about the injury or death of their employees through negligence.

The sad fact is, your chances of going to jail are far higher if you swipe a packet of cigarettes from a service station than you are if you con an elderly couple into investing in a pyramid scheme.

The Serious Fraud Office had a rare victory last month when former Wellington investment manager David Ross was sent down for nearly 11 years for running a Ponzi scheme - although it has to be said that Ross pleaded guilty.

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Colin Espiner: Put Minto on that plane

12:55pm 10 Dec 2013

COLIN ESPINER

I was 13 years old when I joined my first protest march. 

Gathering with thousands of others on a cold August morning in Christchurch, I marched down Colombo Street, over the overbridge, and down Moorhouse Ave to Lancaster Park where the Springboks were about to play the first test against the All Blacks in the infamous 1981 tour. 

The day is a bit of a blur to be honest, although I remember being terrified by the police in their riot gear. I also remember being roundly abused by some very drunk patrons outside a number of pubs en route to the ground. 

I also remember how the Tour split friendships, families, couples, and schoolmates. You were either Pro Tour or you were Anti Tour. Whose side were you on?

Well, everyone except John Key, of course. He can't remember what he felt about this seminal event in our nation's history. Presumably he had something more important on.

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Lowering speed tolerance targets wrong drivers

10:52am 28 Nov 2013

As a generally law-abiding and careful motorist who's been driving for 30 years with little more than a couple of fender-benders and two speeding fines in that entire time, I'm starting to feel like the police have me in their sights.

First it was the lowering of the drink-drive limit from 80mg to 50 despite a woeful lack of evidence that it will do anything to lower the road toll - or indeed that drivers in that range even cause many accidents (see my Sunday Star-Times column for more on why I believe the policy is flawed and this news story on how the crash statistics have been manipulated)

Now, police want to lower the tolerance for "speeding'' - or going faster than the posted limit - to just 4 kmh for an entire two-month period.

Motorists put up with this imposition on long weekends and public holidays because it's a special event, they know the police are going to be out in force during public holiday periods, and, who knows, maybe it even works for a short period of time (more about that in a minute).

But there's a big difference between imposing the restriction for a day or two and for 61 consecutive days throughout December and January - and the police are not ruling out the new rule becoming permanent.

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Key fails on Pike River payout

01:11pm 20 Nov 2013

COLIN ESPINER

Prime Minister John Key generally has a good political radar.

He has that ability necessary in all leaders to sniff the wind; to judge public sentiment and to gauge what is acceptable to most people and what is not. 

Such judgment isn't always about what is legally right and wrong, or about rules or procedures. It's about "natural justice" - fairness, if you like. And spotting issues that upset people and issues that don't.

No-one gets it right all the time, however, and Key has spectacularly failed in the case of the families of the Pike River 29. Cabinet's decision not to pay a measly $3 million in compensation to those who lost their men in the West Coast mine explosion in 2010 is nothing short of astounding.

Actually, it's more than astounding. It's a gross insult to the families and an admission that the Government really hasn't learned that much from the whole tragedy.

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