TheyWorkForYou.co.nz blog

We'll be posting here about the progress of TheyWorkForYou.co.nz


Email:
rob at theyworkforyou dot co dot nz

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    How closely did parties vote on bills in the 49th NZ Parliament?

    How closely did parties vote on bills in the last parliament?

    By analysing party voting on final bill readings, we can see how the political parties differ when it came to legislation passed during the 49th New Zealand Parliament.

    Party bill agreement 49th NZ parliament

    The closer two parties are on the plot, the more often they voted the same way in final bill readings. The distances between parties is calculated from their bill votes. The axes don’t have any special meaning.

    Is there an explanation for the party clusters?

    The National Party had a confidence and supply agreement with ACT, the Māori Party, and United Future in the last Parliament. Together these four parties formed the last Government.

    Despite National and the Māori Party being in Government together, the Māori Party voted more closely with Labour in its voting on bills. National, Act, and United Future were relatively similar in their bill voting.

    The Green Party voted differently from all other parties in its bill voting.

    How was the party distances plot made?

    The plot was created by a statistical analysis of final bill reading votes, using a technique called principal components analysis. The two principal components plotted above explain 83.2% of the variance in the way parties voted on final bill readings.

    You can read a blog post for details of how to do the principal components analysis for yourself. The data is provided.

    See the TheyWorkForYou.co.nz website for more party voting analysis and information.

    Thu 24th Nov 2011

    NZ Parliament website inaccessible to overseas visitors

    The NZ Parliament website has been inaccessible from outside of NZ this week (or at least inaccessible from London where TheyWorkForYou.co.nz is based).

    The outage has been attributed to Anonymous launching a distributed denial of service attack against the NZ parliament website, and the parliament in response blocking access to overseas IP addresses in order to mitigate the DDoS attack.

    The TheyWorkForYou.co.nz project has been on hold, with no updates to the site’s parliament content since January 2010.

    In response to Parliament apparently blocking the official parliament website to overseas visitors, we have updated TheyWorkForYou.co.nz with parliament debates from January 2010 to April 2011. So recent NZ Parliament content is once again visible to the rest of the world.

    TheyWorkForYou.co.nz is wearing the blackout theme to protest against guilt on accusation being brought into law by Parliament’s passing of the Copyright (Infringing File Sharing) Amendment Bill on 14 April 2011.

    An Anonymous youtube message to New Zealand says:

    … the passing of the Infringing File Sharing bill is both a form of censorship and invasion of privacy … that one is guilty until proven innocent is an unlawful and unjust policy.

    We do not believe that one, when accused of copyright infringement, should be questioned by their internet service provider and eligible to a $15,000 fine unless proven innocent.

    We do not believe that one, when accused of copyright infringement, should be sentenced to six months suspension of Internet usage unless proven innocent.

    We do not believe that one, when accused of copyright infringement, should be called a criminal in the eyes of Government for the single act of accessing information unless proven innocent.

    In the Copyright (Infringing File Sharing) Amendment Act 2011, Section 122P enables a district court, at the request of a rights owner, to make a suspension order requiring an Internet service provider to suspend the Internet account of an accused account holder for up to up to 6 months.

    Section 122Q enables a district court, at the request of a rights owner, to make an order requiring an Internet service provider to disclose to a rights owner the name and contact details of an account holder.

    Creative Freedom Foundation, which represent thousands of New Zealand artists, has stated this replacement to the previous Copyright Act Section 92A is a:

    Internet Termination Law that harms many people for the actions of one.

    We don’t cut off a family’s postal service if one person uses it to break the law.

    We don’t cut off phones or electricity because someone plays music too loud.

    How can it be OK to cut off the internet? The internet is now an essential utility for NZ homes and businesses.

    In the Commerce Committee report on the Copyright (Infringing File Sharing) Amendment Bill the Green Party expressed their view that Internet disconnection was not warranted, stating:

    The Green Party applauded the introduction of this legislation, as it began to address the significant failings of its predecessor.

    The Green Party has always opposed, and continues to oppose, termination (account suspension) as a remedy for infringing file sharing. We believe it is disproportionate to the problem and would not solve it. The compromise before the committee isn’t a compromise on this issue at all. It is just a delay in implementation of this ill-considered remedy.

    The Green Party asserts that there is a danger in heavy-handed regulation for a problem that may only be a temporary result of new technologies upsetting traditional business models.

    The use of fines rather than Internet suspension is a more appropriate sanction for file sharing, and the punishments should be proportionate to the crime.

    Citizens are not denied the right to use their telephones because they happened to be used in the commission of a crime, and this legislation should not set any precedent. Access to the Internet has become a necessity in an era when more and more public and private services are only provided online.

    While supporting the bill in principle, the Green Party opposes the retention of termination in the legislation.

    Recent Wikileaks releases of US Embassy cables tell us that as New Zealand was working on the previous round of copyright reform in 2008, the US was actively lobbying several cabinet members.

    According the leaked cables, in 2009, when the new Government said it would redraft the unpopular Section 92A, the US offered to help with drafting the law changes.

    You can see which parties voted for the Copyright (Infringing File Sharing) Amendment Bill here.

    Fri 6th May 2011

    Complaint that Department of Internal Affairs is hiring staff to evangelise proprietary software vendor’s products

    Dear Tony Ryall,

    I wish to lodge a compliant that taxpayers money is being used to hire public sector staff to evangelise a for-profit software vendor’s products. A “Microsoft technology evangelist” position is being advertised online, a phone enquiry confirmed that the hiring organisation is the Department of Internal Affairs: http://www.candleapps.com.au/CIA/JobTemplates/CandleICT-NZ.aspx?WebsiteID=3&JobID=36928

    This is the Government endorsing a specific vendor.

    The real problem is that the inefficient vendor proprietary software lock-in situation has got so bad that the Government now needs to pay staff to promote a particular vendor’s products within government departments. I have long promoted the adoption of free open-source software by government to avoid inefficient vendor lock-in, and to reduce public expenditure on software license fees to overseas corporations that repatriate profits aboard.

    Imagine the outcry if Government were hiring a “Telecom Evangelist” position, say, to promote Telecom services within a public sector organisation because Government had got locked-in to a proprietary Telecom telecommunications infrastructure.

    Tue 25th May 2010

    NZ Department of Internal Affairs hiring someone to evangelise a proprietary software vendor’s products - WTF!?

    NZ Department of Internal Affairs hiring someone to evangelise a proprietary software vendor’s products - WTF!?
    Mon 24th May 2010

    TheyWorkForYou.co.nz is closed for 2010

    On 19 January 2010 the volunteer that runs TheyWorkForYou.co.nz announced his decision to cease updating the website during 2010.

    TheyWorkForYou.co.nz was built to hold power to account by making it easier for you to monitor New Zealand Parliament’s activity. A raft of social tracking features had been planned in 2006. But the process of loading Hansard data from www.parliament.nz each week proved manually intensive, and consumed too much resource to allow new features to be developed.

    After yesterday’s announcement the following question was asked by email:

    I wonder whether it’s possible to drop the workload by fixing the encoding at the source: namely, to have the Hansard staff encode and upload the information in such a way that they don’t give you buggered up data. I know you’ve been talking to them, and these conversations must have happened. What’s the obstacle to making a smooth TWFYNZ data ingest?

    As far as I can determine, the parliament does not have an internal software development team dedicated to their website. They commissioned the development of the software that produces the HTML version of Hansard from a third party.

    For the most part their Hansard HTML is structured and imbued with symantic meaning. However it often contains erratic deviations that are inconsistent with the standard structure. These have to be manually corrected before they can be loaded into the TheyWorkForYou.co.nz, partly because the loading software was designed to prevent erroneous content from being allowed through to the public website.

    If you are from parliament and are curious about the manual alterations I make, you should look at the commit messages on this respository of HTML from parliament.nz (click each commit message to see details of the change).

    TheyWorkForYou.co.nz does report more serious errors (such as omissions) to the Parliament. Wonderful parliament staff do their best to fix these promptly, even though the software causing some of the problems was not written by them. However I’m left feeling that Parliament has neither the will or the financial resource to invest in improving the overall consistency of their Hansard HTML. At present parliament’s budget for new development appears to be going towards a project to make a video archive of parliament debates available to the public.

    Tue 19th Jan 2010

    Rethinking build versus buy for govt software apps

    At a time when the NZ Government is reviewing its procurement systems, it’s worthwhile for us to look at overseas government experience. USA’s Department of Defence is rethinking build versus buy for government software applications:

    "One vendor responded that it would undertake the project for $750,000 and that it would take a year of development time, but could offer no guarantee that the application would be completed. Two members of Nelson’s [inhouse] team built a prototype of the software in six weeks."

    Should the Treasury and Department of Internal Affairs rethink build versus buy for NZ Government software applications?

    Mon 5th Oct 2009

    Aussie’s launch MashUpAustralia contest

    The Australian Government 2.0 Taskforce has launched a MashupAustralia contest.

    Entrants are invited to help show the taskforce why open access to Australian government information is good for Australia’s economy and society.

    Around 59 datasets from the Australian and State and Territory Governments have been released at data.australia.gov.au on license terms and in formats that the taskforce claim permit and enable mashups.

    Anyone who is an Australian resident/citizen is eligible for prizes (teams must have at least one Australian resident/citizen as a member). The contest will begin accepting entries on 7 October 2009 and close on 6 November 2009.

    Sat 3rd Oct 2009

    MP Expenses in the UK and NZ

    I’ve just recorded an interview about MP expenses with Jemma Dempsey from RadioLIVE’s World at Noon. When preparing for the interview I noted some comparisons between MP expenses in NZ and the UK.

    It seems the UK Parliament already had better disclosure of MP expenses than the NZ Parliament, even before detailed claim receipts were leaked to a UK newspaper last week.

    In the UK I can find a breakdown of my MP’s expense claims by category and see the total amount she received. In NZ I couldn’t find online the expense amounts claimed by my MP.

    My UK MP, a government backbencher, is paid £63,291 ($161,800), and in 2007/08 received a staffing allowance of £83,106 ($212,456) and £49,284 ($125,992) for other expense allowances. Comparing this amount to other MPs, my MP’s total expenses placed her 506th out of 645 MPs.

    My NZ MP, also a government backbencher, is, as far as I could determine, paid $131,000. I couldn’t find the expenses amount claimed by my MP on the www.parliament.nz site. There was some generic information about entitlements but it wasn’t obvious what the maximum amounts were.

    Later in the year the UK parliament will require even more transparency from MPs. From July, UK MP’s must include in the Register of Member’s Interests:

    • the precise amount of each individual payment for directorships and remunerated employment and
    • the nature of the work carried out in return for that payment.

    In NZ, the Register of Interests doesn’t require MPs to disclose money received for private sector employment.

    Fri 15th May 2009

    Ready to manage a $1.5bil Govt broadband project?

    The NZ government is planning to invest $1.5billion in improving New Zealand’s broadband. The very first step in execution, identifying an appropriate person to run the first stage, is going to a RFP which is open for a week.

    Miki Szikszai points out:

    The right person for this role will be a kick-ass programme manager who’s only aim in life is to execute programmes brilliantly. That person is not going to be submitting an RFP. You will have to crowbar them out of an existing position. You need to look for these people - they don’t come to you.

    In case you know the right person, you might want to point them at a summary of the tender below. If you want the full details the GETS tender link is: https://www.gets.govt.nz/Default.aspx?show=TenderDetail&TenderID=25618 (login required).

    GETS Reference: 25628
    Title Programme Manager Broadband Investment Programme
    Request for Proposal Ministry of Economic Development
    General Information The purpose of this Request for Proposal (RFP) is to seek a sufficiently qualified person to manage the implementation of the government’s Broadband Investment Programme.

    Background:

    The government has issued a proposal detailing its preferred option for the implementation of its Broadband Investment Policy. The Ministry of Economic Development will be responsible for finalising and then implementing this Policy. This will include analysis of any submissions received on the proposal; finalisation of the policy; and subsequent implementation of the policy through to the establishment of a Crown Investment Agency. The Ministry intends to establish a project team comprising permanent staff supported by consultants. The Programme Manager will lead the project through this initial period.

    To access the RFP documentation please download from below under file name
    Respond by Date Monday, 20th of April 2009 at 12:00 pm
    Address Enquiries to All communications relating to this RFP, or requests for clarification or further information, should be directed in writing to: [email withheld]

    All requests for clarification or further information must be made prior to Noon Monday 13 April 2009. Any requests for clarification or further information received after this time and date may not be responded to at MED’s sole discretion.

    Two hard copies of the response and one electronic copy of the response saved in Microsoft Word are to be delivered to: [address withheld]

    To repeat, if you want the full details you’ll need a login to the Government Electronic Tenders Service website, the tender link is: https://www.gets.govt.nz/Default.aspx?show=TenderDetail&TenderID=25618

    Wed 8th Apr 2009

    Tell NZ Politicians: No Guilt Upon Accusation, Repeal Section 92A

    The Guilt Upon Accusation law, Section 92A of the Copyright Act, is due to come into effect on 27 March 2009. The Creative Freedom Foundation has renewed calls for National to repeal S92A and replace it with a workable alternative.

    Write TODAY to the coalition government politicians to tell them how your business and life would be affected if your Internet account is terminated on accusation.

    TheyWorkForYou.co.nz is blacking out the portraits of National Government MPs on our website until the Government replaces Section 92A with a workable alternative.

    Sat 21st Mar 2009