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Unique computer games may be lost

27 August 2014

Dr Susan Corbett, Associate Professor of Commercial Law at Victoria Business School

Dr Susan Corbett, Associate Professor of Commercial Law at the School of Accounting and Commercial Law, VBS

A little known part of New Zealand’s cultural and computing heritage is under threat due to the passage of time.

Unique computer games and software, developed in New Zealand in the late 1970s and early 1980s because of import restrictions, need to be copied and digitally preserved or they will deteriorate.

Dr Susan Corbett, Associate Professor of Commercial Law at the School of Accounting and Commercial Law at Victoria Business School (VBS), says the copies are needed for the same reason that New Zealand preserves copies of its books in the National Library.

"It's our cultural heritage and editorial record. Otherwise, one day people will say, 'What happened to all those original works?'"

The problem is, it's now exceedingly difficult to trace the people and companies who created the games in order to establish ownership of copyright.

The games were typically created by school boys who sent their computer code to be published in computer magazines. Another company then produced the games using the published code.

The boys would now be aged in their 40s and 50s and the companies are no longer trading.

A Victoria University-funded project that tried to trace copyright of three games – Dungeons Beneath Cairo, City Lander and Poker – and archive them came up with few leads.

Only one of the three games was published by a registered company, which ceased trading in 2000 with few records now available.

An advertisement in the Computer Society’s newsletter also received no response. As the consent of copyright holders needs to be obtained before the software can be copied, the project had to be shelved.

Associate Professor Corbett is a member of an interdisciplinary Australasian team, funded by the Australian Research Council, working on the problem of these 'orphan works' – works whose copyright owner cannot be traced by potential secondary users.

The project leader of the team, Associate Professor Melanie Swalwell – who previously worked for Victoria University and is now based at Flinders University in Adelaide – is now researching for a Popular Memory Archive website devoted to exhibiting Australian and New Zealand games and artefacts-from the 1980s.

Technical expertise is provided by other team members including Dr Ian Welch, of the Engineering and Computer Science School at Victoria University, who is exploring ways to make these old games playable on new platforms.

The Melbourne-based Australian Centre for the Moving Image is also an ally and has hosted two conferences. Now Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision – formerly the New Zealand Archive of Film, Television and Sound – is lending a hand.

It is in the early stages of collecting material by attempting to make connections with collectors and potential donors of the rare games in New Zealand. Associate Professor Corbett knows of one collector who has two large sheds full of them.

Some legal commentators have argued that an exception to normal copyright practices could be made, as this is a case of cultural heritage preservation.

The Australian Law Reform Commission has recommended a 'fair use' defence could apply.

In New Zealand, a select committee that reviewed the New Zealand Copyright Amendment Bill in 2007 acknowledged the need for appropriate orphan works legislation.

The select committee recommended that the then Ministry of Economic Development should review the possibilities as a matter of urgency, but such a review has not yet been carried out.

Associate Professor Corbett set out suggested amendments to New Zealand copyright law in a 2010 paper in The WIPO JournalRegulation for Cultural Heritage Orphans: Time Does Matter. These amendments would allow cultural heritage institutions and researchers to preserve orphan works in compliance with international copyright law.

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Social inequality still rife in New Zealand

21 August 2014

Social inequality has worsened over the past decade in New Zealand, a new study from Victoria University of Wellington shows.

Research by Dr Lisa Marriott, an associate professor in Victoria’s School of Accounting and Commercial Law, and Dr Dalice Sim, Statistical Consultant in the School of Mathematics, Statistics and Operations Research, builds on a report produced by the Ministry of Social Development in 2003. On the whole, it reveals that inequality has worsened over the last 10 years for both Māori and Pacific people.

The researchers examined 21 social inequality indicators, including measures of health; knowledge and skills; employment; standards of living; cultural identity; and social connectedness. Increased gaps were found between Europeans and Māori, and Europeans and Pacific people, in most of these areas.

The largest increases in disparity were in cigarette smoking; obesity; suicide (this measure was only reported for Europeans and Māori); proportion of the population with a Bachelor’s degree or higher; unemployment; employment; proportion receiving an income-tested benefit; median weekly income; personal income distribution (the proportion of people in the lowest 20 percent of incomes); and internet access in the home.

Decreasing gaps were found in some areas—although the gaps remain significant. These include life expectancy at birth (this measure was only reported for Europeans and Māori); infant mortality (comparison is with non-Māori and non-Pacific people); and early childhood education participation. 

Dr Marriott says the only measure that suggests worsening outcomes for Europeans when compared to Māori and Pacific people is housing affordability. “This measure relates to the proportion of households of that ethnic group where housing costs are at least 30 percent of disposable income,” she says, “and statistics show this worsening for European households and improving for Māori and Pacific households, although on the whole European households are still better off.” 

Household crowding, which was defined as a household where at least one more bedroom is required, has decreased for all ethnic groups, although gaps between Europeans and Māori, and Europeans and Pacific people, remain large. 

The gap is closing between Europeans and Māori regarding the number of school leavers with a minimum of NCEA Level 2 or equivalent, but there is an increasing gap between Europeans and Pacific people.

“Rates of tertiary education participation is the only measure where a gap no longer exists. Although participation has increased for all ethnic groups, there has been such a large increase for Māori and Pacific people that participation rates are now similar.

“Despite considerable attention paid to the issue of inequality, the data outlined in our research indicates that New Zealand’s strategy to address inequality as it relates to Māori and Pacific people has not been successful.

“We are seeing worsening outcomes for Māori and Pacific people, and even in cases where disparity is reducing, the gaps with the European population often remain large.

“This growing gap in inequality clearly warrants greater government attention to stop the problem getting any worse,” says Dr Marriott. 

For the full report visit http://www.victoria.ac.nz/sacl/about/cpf/publications/pdfs/2015/WP09_2014_Indicators-of-Inequality.pdf

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Student 'shadows' CFO of the Department of Internal Affairs

20 August 2014

CPA Australia and Victoria Business School offered 13 accounting and finance students the chance to spend an exclusive full day of one-on-one mentoring with a Public Sector CFO, and student Monica Sorce gives an insight into her experience below.

Students entering the 'Shadow a CFO' Competition submitted a 500 word entry answering three questions, and a shortlist was chosen to give a five minute presentation to a Dragons' Den panel.

Monica Sorce talks about shadowing Matthew Needham, CFO of the Department of Internal Affairs
Monica Sorce and Matthew Needham

Monica Sorce with Matthew Needham, CFO of the Department of Internal Affairs

The Department of Internal Affairs (DIA) is the oldest government agency in New Zealand, responsible for a vast range of portfolios including passports, birth and death certificates, and even the dog database.

My day spent shadowing Matthew Needham, CFO of the DIA, was an opportunity for a glimpse into his busy role as well as the DIA as a whole, and I left with a more extensive understanding of both.

A recurring theme: collaboration, and this started with a breakfast seminar that included Chief Executives across all government agencies.

This forum discussed Four Year Plans and expectations for Budget 2015, and it was clear that significant changes had been made in recent years with CE's encouraged to reach across the agencies and engage staff from all levels.

At an ICT meeting, continued collaboration and information sharing was encouraged between the DIA and Inland Revenue, as the DIA had recently overhauled its accounting information system by transferring to SAP – in line with the IR – from Oracle, which had been in place for 20 years.

Collaboration was also encouraged at the Shared Services Branch quarterly managerial meeting among the departments during the discussion of "Where to from here?".

An aspect which I will take away from my day is the difference between the public and private sectors. Matthew mentioned that defining a vision for the public sector was not as clear-cut as the private sector, where everything is driven back to the dollar, and observed that government agencies were being encouraged to become more commercialised.

It was interesting to hear about difficulties that could be easily solved in the private sector but not so easily in the public sector – for example one portfolio at the managerial meeting was receiving the majority of its complaints from the flag hire service which essentially brings no revenue, but privatising or removing it aren’t viable options.

The highlight of my day was speaking to Matthew one-on-one, where I had the chance to ask about his personal career path.

He gave me practical advice which I will follow as I begin my own career, especially as I am now highly interested in working for the public sector.

I extend a massive thank you to Matthew for allowing me to shadow him, and make me feel included and informed wherever we went. His commitment to the role is clear, and I feel a heightened sense of trust among all public servants.

Thank you also to Mark for warmly greeting me in the morning and for his time throughout the day, and to everyone at the DIA whose meetings I sat in on and observed.

Finally, thank you to CPA Australia for organising this opportunity. My day as a shadow was busy yet extremely rewarding, and I highly recommend the experience to any accounting or finance student.

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Capital gains in the capital city

29 July 2014

Associate Professor Dr David White from the School of Accounting and Commercial Law

Associate Professor Dr David White, School of Accounting and Commercial Law

Victoria University hosted a public debate on the merits of more comprehensive capital gains tax this week – a step which taxation expert Associate Professor Dr David White from the School of Accounting and Commercial Law considers would be beneficial for New Zealand.

Organised by student group Beta Alpha Psi, the event saw Dr White joining MPs from National, Labour and the Greens, along with tax partners from PricewaterhouseCoopers and Ernst & Young, in mooting the pros and cons of adopting a comprehensive scheme of taxing capital gains.

According to Dr White, New Zealand's current tax system as a whole could be made a great deal fairer and would be more efficient if the income tax base was extended by consistently including income from assets, such as property and shares, on a rational basis.

"There is considerable debate in the public finance literature about the rate of tax on capital income but none of the literature recommends the current patchwork of taxation and non-taxation that we currently have. It's a haphazard, mishmash of regimes built up bit by bit," Dr White says.

"Some of the current rules for taxing gains made on land transactions, for example, depend on your intention or what your occupation is. It’s not a rational system.

"This issue about how we tax ourselves is right at the heart of government. We have a limited amount of capital in New Zealand, and the present incoherent system of taxing it is distorting investment. To help improve the overall living standards of New Zealanders, we need to reduce these distortions. For reasons of fairness, I think that we should do this by bringing more capital gains into the income tax net along with labour income."

Dr White says most countries in the OECD have a comprehensive capital gains tax of some sort, and though they differ in scope and complexity, the idea of taxing the gain made through selling an asset for a higher value – like a piece of land, or share in Telecom – is widely accepted.

During Dr White’s 24-year career in this area, which has seen him work extensively around the world and as a former chief analyst in tax policy for New Zealand Treasury, he says it has always been a contentious topic.

"Most capital gains tax is collected from a very small percentage of the population, typically less than one percent. And yet, it’s a controversial issue because tax design inevitably involves value judgements.

"If you look at capital gains taxation in Europe and North America, it’s very few people who report most of the capital gains. There are generally thresholds that take most people out of the regime.

"There needs to be a sense within society that we’ve got a fair system, not only for collecting revenue but for allowing people to meet all their legitimate aspirations.  As our population ages, you’re going to find the working young increasingly called upon to fund their own consumption and retirement, but also to pay for older people’s. The issues of fairness are likely to become more acute.

"The current New Zealand tax system with a broad-based GST and a fairly broad-based income tax is highly regarded around the world. The main feature of the income tax that many overseas experts cannot understand is the extent to which, and the reasons why, certain capital gains are excluded from New Zealand’s broad-base, low-rate tax policy."

The public debate was held in the Student Union Memorial Theatre on Victoria’s Kelburn Campus. Speakers included:

  • Dr Kennedy Graham, Green Party Finance Spokesperson
  • Chris Leatham, a tax partner from PricewaterhouseCoopers
  • Simon O’Connor, National MP and Deputy Chair of the Finance and Expenditure Committee
  • Hon David Parker, Deputy Leader of the Labour Party
  • Aaron Quintall, a tax partner from Ernst and Young
  • Dr David White from Victoria University’s School of Accounting and Commercial Law

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Bright future for students in CPA Australia's Shadow a CFO competition

21 July 2014

Eight top Victoria Business School accounting and commercial law students will each spend a day in the office with a senior public sector finance executive following an initiative by global accounting body CPA Australia.

CPA Australia's New Zealand Country Manager David Jenkins said that Shadow a CFO is all about introducing top talent to prospective employers.

"Shadow a CFO gives these students the unique experience of spending one-on-one time with a leading Chief Financial Officer. It will expose them to the real world of business and help open up internship and possibly longer term career opportunities within the public sector, and elsewhere."

The Shadow a CFO initiative saw students making a 'dragon's den'-style presentation to a panel of high powered Chief Financial Officers from across the public sector.

"Standing in front of a group of CFOs was both daunting and inspiring," said final year BCom student Robert Whitefield, 20, of Upper Hutt.

"It was a unique opportunity and you just had to get over your fear and make the most of it.

"What I’ll take away from the experience is that if you’re ambitious and you put in the effort, you can make it. The CFO I will be shadowing for a day is Thor Gudjonsson from the Ministry of Justice. He's made it to CFO level and he’s only 32!

"The other key learning is the importance of being able to back up your statements with evidence, and the need to anticipate tough questions. These are things I expect to encounter in the workplace."

Paul Helm, CFO of the New Zealand Transport Agency, was impressed with the quality of the students.

"Given these are top students, the CFO panel had pretty high expectations. I’m pleased to say they all performed well under some fairly intense scrutiny, and all have a bright future in finance. From a public sector perspective it was encouraging to find that the sector is seen by students as an attractive path for top-flight finance careers, particularly here in Wellington."

The participating CFOs were:

  • Sara Brownlie, CFO, Central Agencies Shared Services, Treasury
  • Giles Southwell, CFO, Inland Revenue
  • Matthew Needham, CFO, Department of Internal Affairs
  • Thor Gudjonsson, CFO, Ministry of Justice
  • Paul Helm, CFO, New Zealand Transport Agency
  • Tony Murray, CFO, Ministry of Primary Industries
  • John Gill, CFO, Datacom New Zealand
  • Kevin Martin, CFO, NZ Customs
Shadow a CFO judges watch a student presentation.

Judges for the Shadow a CFO initiative watch student presentations in the Rutherford House Boardroom

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SACL Prize and Sponsorship winners celebrated

17 June 2014

The annual function to celebrate the School of Accounting and Commercial Law prize and scholarship winners was held on Monday, 12 May 2014 on the Mezzanine Floor of Rutherford House. Professor Ian Eggleton, Head of the School of Accounting and Commercial Law welcomed all prize winners, representatives of sponsor organisations, family members, friends and staff to this event to celebrate SACL’s best students.

In his welcoming speech, Professor Eggleton explained that these prize winners were the top students in the courses receiving the prizes, therefore a significant achievement. He went on to encourage and congratulate each prize winner and their corresponding sponsor.

The top students for 2013 in a number of Accounting, Commercial Law and Taxation papers were: Benjamin Allan, Georgia Allen*, Zoe Brandon, Ming Xiao Chan, Brittany Earl*, Evelyn Elisara, Abby Franklin*, Hien Hoang, Haein Jeon, Ngahuia Leighton*, Michelle Lu (who received three prizes), Kirsten McCutcheon*, Linh Nguyen*, Caitlin Olsen*, Melissa Peters*, Samantha Richardson, Katie Skinner and Yih Ling Tan*. (*in absentia).

These students were the recipients of prizes sponsored by the following organisations: Office of the Auditor-General, CPA Australia, Deloitte, InternetNZ, KPMG, the New Zealand Institute of Chartered Accountants including the Wellington Not-for-Profit Special Interest Group which gave a separate award, Wiley publishing house and two individuals who have long supported accounting students – the Bhagwan Khanna Prize and the RW Steele Scholarship.

It was a truly enjoyable event where students, guests and staff members mingled, discussing student life, plans and dreams for the future over refreshments.

Prize winners and sponsors

Photo: The Prize Winners standing with Professor Ian Eggleton and Dr Carolyn Cordery on either side and with the sponsors sitting at the front.

 

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Understanding issues faced by low income families

28 May 2014

A new joint project by Victoria and Canterbury Universities is focused on raising awareness of the issues faced by low-wage workers with family responsibilities, and increasing the use of legal institutions to benefit these families.

Dr Amanda Reilly from the School of Accounting and Commercial Law and an associate of the Centre for Labour Employment and Work at Victoria Business School is working with Associate Professor Annick Masselot and Dr Sanna Malinen from Canterbury on the research project, which aims to contribute to the development of strong policies to address the needs of low-wage workers.

As academics and working mothers, the three researchers have faced their own challenges with work-family reconciliation, but say they are aware that they are in a relatively privileged position of having stable and reasonably well-paid jobs.

"Rather than adding to the already copious literature on the struggles of professional women we thought it was important to broaden the discourse and to investigate the challenges encountered by other, less privileged and often invisible, workers," says Dr Reilly.

To ensure their research and recommendations are relevant and useful, the team’s work will be informed by the latest international research and by insights from people at the coalface of advising and representing low-wage workers, as well as by workers themselves.

The insights and perspectives of employers will also be critical to the project.

"While we cannot change the law ourselves, we aim to ensure that our law makers have access to research-informed recommendations which will draw on a comprehensive review of international best practice, as well as an in-depth understanding of issues specific to New Zealand," says Dr Reilly.

Dr Sanna Malinen is an organisational psychologist, providing an excellent complement to Dr Reilly and Associate Professor Malinen’s legal skills.

"Sanna brings a focus on employers’ needs as well as quantitative analysis skills to the project," says Dr Reilly.

In addition to raising awareness, the project includes legal analyses, qualitative interviews with low-wage workers with family responsibilities and their employers as well as interviews with people who work in community groups that advise low-wage workers.

A survey of employers will be conducted to understand the barriers to implementing work-family reconciliation and identify ways forward.

The project also includes a specific Kaupapa Māori component. Dr Reilly will be involved in all four strands of the project but expects to have the greatest input into developing the legal analysis and recommendations.

"As a Wellington-based academic, I am in a good position to make contact with, and maintain relationships with, a number of organisations that are based here and are participating in and supporting the project."

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SACL Accounting student profiled by CPA Australia

30 April 2014

One of SACL's accounting students, Evelyn Elisara, has been profiled on CPA Australia's global Naked CEO Website. Evelyn was a student ambassador for CPA Australia last year and was very proactive in helping out at the CPA Public Sector Future Leaders forum.  Evelyn is also the recipient of an Award for Excellence in Accounting and has also received the NZICA Prize in Law of Organisations and has been included in the Dean's List for Academic Excellence for the last two years. Evelyn's interview on the Future Leaders CPA Australia website is available here. Congratulations Evelyn!

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Top students’ Awards for Excellence in Accounting, Commercial Law and Taxation

21 March 2014

Top students in the School of Accounting and Commercial Law were recently honoured at the School’s annual Awards for Excellence ceremony in the Memorial Theatre, Student Union Building.

The Awards for Excellence were presented by Stephen Walker, Executive Director of Audit New Zealand and an alumnus of the School.

Mr Walker addressed the variety of interesting career positions that a qualification in Accounting, Commercial Law or Taxation provides. He also emphasised the responsibility, to both employers and society, that goes with these positions.

Professor Bob Buckle, Pro Vice-Chancellor and Dean of Victoria Business School, told the award winners that the university as a whole was voted number 1 in New Zealand for research and the Victoria Business School was the highest rated business school. The students were thus fortunate to have studied in a high quality, research oriented environment.

The winning students were also encouraged to enrol for Honours upon graduation.

The Award winners were the best academic performers in their second and third years of study in Accounting, Commercial Law and Taxation courses. The full list of Award winners are:

Certificates in Accounting
Leonor Agustin, Liam Beattie, Peter Childs, Karla Clegg, Evelyn Elisara, Rebecca Gan, Chloe Glennon, Robert Holland, Simon Lang, William Leith, George Love, Michelle Lu, Caitlin Olsen, Samantha Richardson, Rebecca Tonkin, Rochelle Wilson and Nicholas Young. Receiving their certificate in absentia were: Johanna Clayton, Bradley Goodyear, Yi Hui Lee, Nicole Sullivan and Celia Whincop.

Certificates in Commercial Law
Tamara Crowe, Benjamin Eggers, Harry Graham, Arushi Sharma, Joel Walden and Caroline Young. In absentia, Jack Robinson.

Certificates in Taxation
Benjamin Cooksley, Grace Liang, Christopher Stempa, and Charlotte Velvin. In absentia, Carli Ebbett.
 
There were also three students who achieved Excellence in two disciplines:

Richard Stringer who received Certificates of Excellence in Accounting and Commercial Law; and Tamara Shields and Benjamin Allan (in absentia) who received Certificates of Excellence in Commercial Law and Taxation.

SACL Excellence awards

The award winners with, at the centre (left to right): Christopher Cripps, Deputy Head of School, School of Accounting and Commercial Law, Stephen Walker, Executive Director, Audit New Zealand and Professor Bob Buckle, Dean and Pro Vice-Chancellor, Victoria Business School

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SACL meets high accreditation standards

10 February 2014

The School of Accounting and Commercial Law (SACL) is delighted to announce the renewal of its accreditation by the New Zealand Institute of Chartered Accountants (NZICA).

To obtain this five-year accreditation, certain accounting and business topics must be covered in the accounting programme and eight accreditation standards must be met to ensure students are receiving a high quality education.

“Applying for this accreditation is a huge undertaking, and we were especially pleased to receive a commendation for the quality of the documentation we provided,” says Dr Carolyn Fowler, a senior lecturer in SACL, who was a member of the School’s accreditation team.

“Maintaining this accreditation ensures our programmes meet the academic requirements for entry into NZICA, which sets our students on the path towards becoming fully qualified chartered accountants.”

In the last 18 months, the School has also had its accreditation renewed by CPA Australia, the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA), United Kingdom, and the Association of Certified Chartered Accountants (ACCA).

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Congratulations to Victoria Plus Award recipients

14 January 2014

Congratulations to the School of Accounting and Commercial Law Victoria Plus Award recipients 2013 Sangeetha Gopal, Frances Schnackenberg, Sasha Unsworth, Charlotte Velvin, Matthew Woolley and Sarah Fisher!

The Victoria Plus Award recognises a student’s significant contribution to volunteering and student support work within the University and local community. It is a three-part programme which helps develop leadership, social responsibility and employability skills. To successfully complete the Award and gain recognition on the academic transcript, students must fulfil a set criteria based on involvement in activities, attendance at personal development workshops and completion of a reflective ePortfolio.

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Public administration programme delivered in Kazakhstan

13 January 2014

In December 2013, Dr Rodney Dormer was invited to present a five day programme at the Kazakhstan Academy of Public Administration in Astana.

With the support of the United Nations Development Programme, the Academy has established a 'Regional Hub' to provide educational programmes ranging from short courses through to doctoral study, and to promote and support related research.

Dr. Dormer's programme was presented to senior civil servants from Kazakhstan, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan.

All of these countries are seeking to establish more effective models of public management but are still in the process of redesigning structures, and emerging from a culture, created by their long emersion in the soviet system.

The programme was not designed to teach participants about the New Zealand model of public management (although they were interested in that), but aimed to provide a framework of questions to help attendees from each country explore models that reflect the challenges of their own unique challenges.

Dr Rodney Dormer with participants of five day Programme in Kazakhstan

Dr Rodney Dormer and senior civil servants from Kazakhstan, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan gathered at the Kazakhstan Academy of Public Administration

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