Thursday, January 13, 2005

You ruined my breakfast.

I nearly chocked on my toast this morning as I read Brash’s brain fart opinion piece in the Herald. What a load of rubbish. I use to think this guy was at least dignified and respectable - with every single utterance I hear from the man I loose more and more of that feeling. He is shocking and this year I am going to do all I can to keep him from getting anywhere near the treasury benches.

From this mornings Herald.

The five-year term of the Government has been marked by profound and often deeply controversial changes to our social order.

You would expect that with a change from a heartless right wing government to a centre left one…

Civil unions will soon be a feature of society. Prostitution has been legalised. The Property Relationships Amendment Act, in effect, deemed those in de facto relationships to be married.

I thought you supported those Don? I mean you voted FOR the prostitution reforms...
Oh and what’s that?- you changed your mind at the last minute because of pressure from fundamentalist interest groups like the rest of the National party caucus, your advisers suggesting that the Destiny party is stealing your vote, and I understand through the political gossip grapevine your change could be due to the influence of your wife.

Smoking has been banned in restaurants, clubs and bars. Access to the Privy Council, as the highest court, has been abolished and a new Supreme Court established in its place. And the signal that the abolition of the monarchy, in favour of a republic, is next on the agenda is unmistakable.

Workers do not have to breath in cancer causing air, I don’t have to breath in other peoples smoke and my clothes don’t stink - oh and a fair number of the public agrees with the ban - thanks Labour led government.

Britain was going to cut our access to the Privy Council anyway and your suggestion that we should have stayed simply equates NZ with the remaining countries. Of the 16 remaining countries, 10 are members of the Caribbean community, and they plan to withdraw in the near future. The other five countries retaining the right of appeal to the Privy Council are the Bahamas, Brunei, Kiribati, Mauritius and Tuvalu.
Most other Commonwealth countries have already abolished the right of appeal to the Privy Council.
Canada abolished criminal appeals in 1933 and civil appeals in 1949.
South Africa ended appeals in 1950.
Australia terminated all appeal rights between 1975 and 1986.
Hong Kong severed its ties with the Privy Council in 1997.
Other countries which have abolished the right of appeal to the Privy Council include Pakistan, Ireland, India, Malaysia and Singapore.
Caribbean nations have discussed plans to replace the Privy Council with a Regional Court of Appeal.

The move, or at least the debate on the monarchy has been going on for ages now and I am sure you are aware of a number of your own MPs, current or past that favour the move. I hope that you are at least willing to talk about NZ’s future. I think we are strong and independent enough to strike out independently on our own. I think we can see a clear divide between our parties emerging here - yours seems to be stuck in an 80’s neo-liberal economic mindset coupled with a traditional Tory social agenda. Mine is the party of the future. I look forward giving the voters that choice.

These changes were, and are, opposed by substantial minorities - in some cases, possibly the majority - of New Zealanders. And the experience has left many harbouring serious doubts both about the way in which we elect our Parliament, and the way in which we make major changes to our key institutions.
They ask, correctly, whether MMP has delivered on the promise of a more consensual, more accountable form of government. And they ask how it is that a Parliament of 120 representatives can impose such profound changes on our social institutions without seeking a specific mandate from the public.

Mandate? There is a new mandate given every four years. Funny how political parties always claim there is no mandate when they are in opposition. One could ask the same about you and your ilk’s changes to the social order in the 80/90’s - do you remember what happened then? After the reforms hurt so many people in the 80’s National promised to soften the reforms - giving them more heart, that was put to a general referendum in 1991 and there was a change of government. When the public reforms continued and the style of government by your party so upset the electorate we turfed you out in 1999. This year there will be another general referendum on the state of play and that is the way things work.

Even supporters of some of these changes have been disquieted by the spectacle of so-called conscience votes being managed by the ninth floor of the Beehive, down to the last abstention.
That the advent of MMP has resulted in greater representation for women and ethnic and other minorities is beyond doubt. Whether it has produced the more accountable, more consultative style of Government promised by its advocates is open to the most serious challenge.

Although it must be horrific to traditional Tory voters to see such diversity with parliament having more women, more gay people, a transgender person (from a rural electorate - amazing), more Maori and pacific people I notice that that diversity doesn’t extend to your predominantly white male party. And what examples do you have that the government is less accountable or consultative? Assertions wont get you that far.

Indeed, it is arguable that the reliance on backroom deal-making with minor parties to make progress with legislation has removed the whole process one step further from direct accountability to the public, the more so when some of the key participants are able to enjoy the comparative shelter of election as list MPs.

You what? YOU are a list MP. YOU enjoy that shelter. YOU have lost every electorate seat election you have stood in. YOU or YOUR advisers wont let you stand in an electorate. YOU would have made a backroom deal to get that list place. YOUR assent to the leadership was a back room deal. YOU will have to deal with minor parties if god help us you win this year. That is the promise of MMP, more voices in parliament, more consultation to more parties who are more democratically accountable to the electorate.

There is a widespread impression among New Zealanders that when MMP was introduced we were promised an opportunity to review the position by way of referendum two elections hence. The fact that this review was undertaken by a select committee of MPs, without any public referendum whatsoever, is rightly seen as self-interest on steroids. The time has come to put the matter to the test by way of a new referendum on the manner by which we elect our MPs, inside the next term of office. That is a proposition I will ask the National Party to endorse as a matter of policy.

Hmm, interesting policy plank. Cant have made you too popular with ACT - the other party you are the 9th MP for, or is your party simply worried about NZ First ’stealing’ your vote. I wonder where the great public outcry for a vote on the electoral system. I am sure it seems that way down in the corridors of the beehive, out here most people are just getting on with it - but with more parties aren’t things more interesting down there now Don?

*As a side, Bfm is playing Paul Ubana Jones an amazing NZ solo guitarist. The guy sounds like he plays the guitar with three arms and 30 figures, or even two guitars at once. If you get the chance, go and see this man.

Any referendum need not be restricted to two choices. It may be, for example, that in addition to the former first-past-the-post system and the MMP system, New Zealanders will want to consider the supplementary member (SM) system, which would cut the number of list MPs by half. That would provide some assurance of retaining improved ethnic and gender balance (arguably the only benefit of MMP) while delivering a more accountable Parliament.

Whoa, I thought you where going to put it to the party to adopt as a policy position. Sounds like you have already made up your mind here Don. So much for talk of accountability and transparency. Anyway we have already had this debate in the 1990’s, why don’t you just come out and say that you think the people back then made the wrong decision rather than implying that there is ‘public disquiet’ about our electoral system. One could just as easily state that it is working just fine, the way we told you it was going to work.

A great benefit of both the first-past-the-post or SM systems is that they would make possible a substantial reduction in the size of Parliament, to 100 MPs or even fewer, with a consequent reduction in the size of the Executive. Reductions to both would be very desirable.

I think that representation should be determined and pegged to population size, not to the level of grumpy late night callers to talkback radio.
I noticed you implied that the benefit of MMP was more diverse representation - how are you going to ensure that this continues in a smaller parliament?
You say that a reduction would be “very desirable” - why?

If a referendum is the appropriate means to resolve such important constitutional issues - and I can scarcely imagine a less appropriate process than a select committee made up of people with a very direct personal interest in the decision, as with the review of MMP - why should we restrict such an approach to the electoral system? Why not use referendums more widely to determine other changes that significantly affect our social landscape?

Ah, on the first point, we already have.

So referendum are the way to go now eh? How about one on spending on hospitals or schools? How about one on tax rates? What if they are contradictory?Oh and how about one on interest rates? Or the inflation band for that matter…

I am mindful of the famous comment of the great British parliamentarian of the 18th century, Edmund Burke, that "your representative owes you not his industry only but his judgment, and he betrays, instead of serving, you if he sacrifices it to your opinion". But it has been with a growing sense of discomfort that I have seen controversial social legislation being managed through the Parliament by the Government.

What? This seem to contradict everything you have said. Don’t just open a political philosophers book and pull out a random quote.

It is not simply that I disagree with some of the measures it has promoted. What troubles me is that, unlike many other measures it has introduced, it can claim no specific or even implied mandate for these changes. The legalisation of prostitution and the institutionalising of civil unions are not matters on which the Government or, indeed, any political party campaigned at the last election. It sought no mandate on such matters, and it has none. Yet far-reaching changes have been made, leaving distraught and angry minorities, possibly majorities, in their wake.

What? Civil Unions and the legalisation of prostitution have been Labour party policy for ages now. Further people know what the Labour party is about - you might not like it but the polls suggest the people do - sorry.
I would hazard to suggest that the distraught and angry minority is simply your caucus.

Far better, I suggest, in the absence of a mandate won at election time, that such controversial changes should at least enjoy the legitimacy of endorsement by a referendum of all people of voting age.

The next mandate will occur some time this year. Get your head around it. I can only suggest that referendums should only be enacted when their outcomes affect all people. Yes have one on the electoral system, one on becoming a republic - but not one on giving rights to discriminated groups. Would you suggest a referendum on giving women the vote in 1893? Freeing slaves?

No doubt election-year caution will see such controversial social measures given a wide berth for the short term. Indeed, the Prime Minister was quite open in her cynicism in this respect as the civil union legislation was passed under urgency before Christmas.

Well the government has a really good message to communicate to the public and I am sure it will campaign on its record and vision for the future. I for one will be using the progressive pieces of legislation we have passed in the campaign. Further I note you are not one for skirting cynicism having got your shite nuclear policy out in the public arena before lunchtime. Don’t be such a hypocrite.

The determination of the Government to advance its social agenda has left deep scars and even deeper doubts about the way we elect our MPs, and the extent to which those MPs owe true accountability to the public. It is timely, then, to consider greater use of referendums to resolve those controversial social issues for which the Government and the Parliament can legitimately claim no mandate. And even more so to provide the public with the opportunity to pronounce judgment on the MMP electoral system, which they have thus far been denied.

Do you have no policy of your own? In the lead up to the election are you simply going to steal any polices New Zealand First has?

* Don Brash is leader of the National Party.

On this last point you are correct, but only just as you are going to loose the next election and thus wont be the leader for much longer.


  • The mandate is renewed every 3 years, not 4.

    Other than that, good post. The only reason the final part of the article is correct (I suspect) is becuase someone else wrote it...

    By Blogger Aucklander At Large, at 12:13 pm  

  • If this is the best that Don can come up with, he's finished.

    By Blogger Jordan, at 2:05 pm  

  • Oi, lay of Don. He, like myself, is an economist and with the level of opinion we currently have in the public arena, we have to stick together.

    By Blogger Rob, at 12:18 pm  

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