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De-regulation, de-democratisation

Written By: - Date published: 11:52 am, February 9th, 2013 - 26 comments
Categories: democracy under attack, elections - Tags:

Is it just me or does the argument for a four year term of Parliament look a lot like the argument that’s presented for deregulation? I was thinking about this watching Mainzeal go under as its leaky building legacy caught up with it. It’s the same dropkicks who say that government needs to get out of the way of business to create jobs who are saying that the people need to get out of the way of government and let it govern with less ‘regulation’ in the form of elections.

Well, look what deregulation has got us: leaky homes, over-priced internet, casualised, low-wage employment, over-priced electricity, the world’s most high-profit banks (all foreign-owned), and even airports gouging us – to name but a few examples. That’s what the ‘get out of their way and let them get on it with’ argument has got us in the private sector.

Now, they want to apply the same logic to the public sphere. In fact, National has already been conducting an experiment in de-democratisation in Canterbury. Regional council replaced by a dictatorship with further elections on hold because National fears it won’t get the result it wants. Gerry Brownlee overstepping his already incredibly wide powers again and again under CERA and, what’s arguably worse, doing things that are entirely within his power but are having devastating effects on the lives of Christchurch residents.

We know what happens when we ‘let them get on with it’, especially when ‘they’ are politicians, is usually pretty shit. That’s why we have regulation for the private sector and democratic oversight for the public sphere.

You would have to be hopelessly naive to believe that reducing the number of elections by a quarter wouldn’t result in a less democratic government. That’s what the Right wants, of course. But some on the Left seem have this almost sweet-if-it-weren’t-so-stupid faith that the government just wants less democratic control of what it does so that it can do more good things for us. You would have thought that the experience of CERA would have been lesson enough for them.

26 comments on “De-regulation, de-democratisation”

  1. Ed 1

    Well said. The actions of this government make a mockery of Farrar’s “ATTACK ON DEMOCRACY” taunts during the last term of the Clarke Labour-led government. I agree with Shearer who said that three years is too long when you are in opposition – and I don’t see much evidence of support from the left for a longer parliamentary term. A throwaway attempt at distraction from economic bungling can be revealing about the underlying thoughts of our Prime Minister – or perhaps he just hates the thought of the next election.

    • Beryl Streep 1.1

      >I don’t see much evidence of support from the left for a longer parliamentary term

      Labour, Greens and NZ First have all publicly stated that “the country would benefit from a four-year parliamentary term” and it should go to a public referendum. Maybe you should read, listen or watch the news now and then and become better informed.

  2. AmaKiwi 2

    + 1

    I have never met a leading NZ politician who is a democrat (i.e., the people should decide rather than their representatives).

    If you were an MP who spent years being virtually powerless, once you got into power you sure as hell wouldn’t want to share. “Those guys didn’t share with me, why should I share.” So our top politicians are all dictators in waiting; elitists rather than democrats.

    It’s a tragic state of affairs. It cannot change until power is shared either with constitutionally protected local bodies, binding referendums, or some other mechanism I haven’t yet discovered.

    • One Tāne Huna 2.1

      I’d like to see more robust rules around select committee hearings – with judicial oversight as the last resort.

      We need more evidence-based policy, and select committee hearings are the correct forum for this evidence to be heard, but too often they simply behave as a rubber stamp for the executive.

      • Macro 2.1.1

        Good idea! Having attended a few in the past, and submitted, the process is quite scary from a fairness and social justice point of view. Too often the bias and prejudice of the members is just too blatant for words, they are not there to listen or to deal in a rational manner with the issues presented to them at all. However we need to look at better performance of sub committees not only at National level but at regional and district council level as well! A recent example of such a committee here was just too appalling for words with members simply failing to understand even the most basic of facts, and then when speaking to the topic getting them wrong, and one saying “well I really don’t understand what its all about so I’m just going to vote for the status quo” or words to that effect. Is this how we want our communities and countries to be run?

    • swan 2.2

      “I have never met a leading NZ politician who is a democrat (i.e., the people should decide rather than their representatives).”

      Actually in a representative democracy, like we have at the central government level, it is the representatives who decide. That is the way it works.

  3. Tim 3

    Another things – just by the by – is the way politicians consistently undermine the judiciary.
    Why is it that we have Minsters making ‘executive’ type decisions on certain issues such as with immigration?
    If the laws they’d created were robust enough, they should not fear judicial decisions.
    Effectively we get politicians involving themsleves (in this example – i.e. immigration) in matters that should be left to judicial interpretation of laws.
    I seem to remember we’ve had teenagers drug and exported, Zowie’s and other incidents.
    Interesting too that we’re now going to bail out Australia YET again over their cruel and incompetent handling of asylum seekers.
    Does anybody else recall that little ‘training exercise’ on how to handle an influx of ‘boat people’?.
    I said (elsewhere – I think Tumeke cos its was the only left blog I’d discovered at the time), that we should not be surprised if we were soon to become the Manus Island of the Sth Pacific.
    John Key, as we already know, LOVES sucking up to the big people (in this case – as in “our big brothers”).
    The funny thing is….while I’m on the subject, Joooolyah is supposed to be from Labor Left ffs!
    She’s so far right it isn’t funny – but I get it now….the Labour old guard are probably aspiring to emulate her ‘success’. Certainly there’s a krizmetuk used-car salesman that’s doing his best to.

    Still, no worries. I’m inspired by this morning’s Kim Hill programme with Guy Standing – you know the one: from those dirty filthy lefties at RNZ.
    ——————————————

    …..Oh FFS sake – here we go!!! NOW we learn on RNZ 13:00 NEWS that 150 asylum seekers to be taken will form part of the 700ish we normally take.
    ….so Key has just sold off a little more of our sovereignty – bailing out OZ (a la Tampa), in order to keep sweet with the racists. AND – nothing in exchange (such as with the inequity that came about with Howard’s reforms of 2001).

    Does Key own any property on the GC does anyone know?

    ———————————————-

  4. the sprout 4

    I know Helen Clark was adamantly against a 4 year term, given nz’s unicameralism. Someone should get her on record on the matter.

  5. Ad 5

    Anyone remember the hue and cry the media especially the NZHerald made when Clark determined to do away with the Privy Council and establish our own Supreme Court?

    Yet when Key – and then Shearer – propose to significantly lengthen the only time we get to Performance Review the entire political order, the whole MSM says “we worship and adore you”.

    We are having a constitutional review at the moment. That’s the right place to propose this. Not live to camera after a brain explosion.

    And in Shearer’s case, for such a major constitutional shift, he should at least have consulted caucus, Labour policy council, maybe even his own membership.

    This attitude by Key and Shearer makes me think we should have direct democracy, in which there’s a clear set of annual indicators, and we get to say (by unique text) whether they are measuring up.

    Political Annual Performance Review.

    With full vote of confidence in the Board (elections) every three years.

    • Ed 5.1

      Shearers comment was if anything more supportive of a shortening of the term of parliament – he said three years _was_ too long to be in opposition, but _may_ be too short to get everything you want done in government. I took it that he was not taking the proposal at all seriously – that is far from supporting a change.

      The ‘brain explosion’ was news of thousands fewer in work, and Mainzeal closing with 400 internal jobs and thousands of subbies. You are correct that the constitutional review is the right place to raise such issues – unless you know you can suck media debate sideways by a distraction . . .

      • Macro 5.1.1

        Well he should think more carefully before he puts his mouth into gear.

        • Ed 5.1.1.1

          The problem was not with Shearer – the headline was all a sub-Editors work. But Key has had a success of sorts – the distraction has had a whole lo of blogs running around wasting time on a non-starter – far better for him than discussion about jobs or Mainzeal or poverty . . .

  6. They should give us the fixed term without trying to crony up their own job security. You’re a politician in one of the easiest countries to rush through laws in in the democratic world. You don’t need four year terms in government.

    • Exactly.

      Legislation does not have to go through an upper house or over some other ‘hurdle’. The legislative process, given that, is surely quite rapid compared to other parliamentary democracies?

  7. BLiP 7

    .

    Lets face it, if a political grouping in power is any good, it will get six years. That’s de facto, I suggest. Now, if there’s a really, really shit government, they won’t get past three years. If it does get past the three year hurdle and we’ve missed something, then we’re in trouble . . . oh, hang on!

  8. Bill 8

    Wouldn’t a point of lengthier terms be to afford a more consistent environment facillitating a deeper degree of capture of government by corporate/financial interests? A 30% increase in the time span allowed to corporate /financial interests to persuade the same government to pursue policies favourable to them, where that government doesn’t have to keep such an eye on electoral risks due to a longer election cycle; that’s a major and surely unwelcome shift.

    • fatty 8.1

      True…However, this appears to be a trimming of the weeds, rather than pulling them out from the root. It also appears to be a safeguard against Labour being average? Labour should get 8 years instead of 6 under the same system

  9. fatty 9

    I don’t think I understand this 3 year vs 4 year argument…or this post.
    How does this relate to CERA?
    How is the argument the same as deregulation?

    The argument for a 4 year term is that it should produce policies that look towards a longer term vision. What is the argument for a 3 year term?
    The CERA issue occurred in a 3 year term due to most parties giving Gerry authoritarian powers. National got voted back in after they became dictatorial arseholes.

  10. The argument for a 4 year term is that it should produce policies that look towards a longer term vision.

    I don’t follow this argument. It looks like a non-sequitur to me. Why would a longer term lead to policies/legislation “towards a longer term vision”? I don’t see the incentive towards long term vision in lengthening the term – in some respects, and for some individual politicians, it could well act in quite the reverse manner (you know, that law about a task expanding to fill the available time?).

    The fact that the electoral term is longer seems unrelated to the length of term of the ‘vision’, so far as I can see. They both have the word ‘long’ in them, I guess, but that doesn’t indicate anything relevant to the claim.

    Additionally, I know that ‘long-term thinking’ is always presented as a good thing, but that assumes that we get the ‘long-term vision’ right. It seems to me that having the scope for adjustments or even reversals on a regular basis is no more or less a ‘bad thing’ than irrevocably entrenching a ‘bad’ long term vision.

    Further, even if the claim were true, it strikes me as an unwise depoliticisation of the political – the claim that governance is primarily a technical matter and three year terms undermine our ability to do the technically ‘right’ thing. I’m very sceptical of that view.

    Also, Douglas’ ‘reforms’ were undoubtedly a ‘long term vision’ and they have pretty much achieved their purpose – and that was with three yearly elections (which shows that three year electoral cycles don’t prevent the enactment of ‘long term thinking’). (I know, Douglas claimed to have ‘unfinished business’ – given 8 years rather than 6, maybe he could have finished it?).

    It was, of course, a long term vision that was massively flawed, in my opinion.

    But, Bolger’s government, remember, was voted in on the expectation that there would be a halt to the Douglas reforms (remember the ‘decent society’?) – while that didn’t work to stop the reforms because of a 180 degree turnaround by National from its manifesto, the electorate in effect tried to reject/adjust the ‘long term vision’ within 6 years of it being implemented, rather than the 8 it would have taken under the proposed 4 year terms (It’s also possible to argue that they only let it run for 6 years because they believed Lange in the 1987 election campaign when he said they’d finished doing all the economic stuff and were going to return to Labour’s core concerns with welfare, education, etc.).

    • Puddleglum 10.1

      Sorry, I should have replied directly to fatty’s comment at 9.

    • fatty 10.2

      Additionally, I know that ‘long-term thinking’ is always presented as a good thing, but that assumes that we get the ‘long-term vision’ right.

      True, the last thing we want is a long term right wing vision to be implemented. But we seriously need some long term left policies.

      So, is 3 years preferred so that we can only vote them out quicker? If that is the case, is 2 years better, or is that too short? I’m not trying to be a smartass, its just there appears overwelming support for 3 years on here and I am yet to hear a good argument for it…is there even a good argument for 3 or 4? I don’t think one is better than the other…and I don’t know much about political science, I am hoping to be convinced.

      Someone has already stated that due to our unicameral system 4 years is too long and too much damage can be done in 4 years…but I thought MMP addressed this issue?

      • GregJ 10.2.1

        If you haven’t already then I strongly urge you to read (or re-read) Chapter 6 of the 1986 Report of the Royal Commission on the Electoral System – it really does sum up the arguments both for and against the four year term. Although it recommended a referendum on the issue it hedged that with some caution around the need for sufficient checks (and yes PR was viewed as a possible check).

        It is interesting that the unpopular Forbes coalition government extension of the Parliamentary Term for 1 year in the 1930s and both failed referendums on a 4 year term (1967 & 1996) were put forward by National (or proto-National) government – it does seem to be a particular recurring National theme.

        • fatty 10.2.1.1

          thanks GregJ, I’ll give it a read.

          • fatty 10.2.1.1.1

            Here is the link to the chapter that GregJ has suggested…its clear and concise, and also gives a brief history of our terms of government.

            Paragraph 6.9 is interesting. It states that in the UK the average length of governments have been 3 – 3.5 years, despite them having 5 year terms. The same is the case for many other countries who have 4 year terms. (this suggests that a change to a 4 year term will just mean more early elections, not a longer time in office)

            Paragraph 6.15 suggests there is evidence that policy is designed to coincide with election year, especially with economic policies…but the following paragraphs after that statement dispute this.

            The conclusion is also interesting. They tentatively suggest 4 years could be better if MMP was introduced (It was still FPP when the report was made). They also call for a more politically informed public (not sure anyone here would say that has occurred).

            The report is also quite firm that the decision should be done by referendum.
            I think I am still undecided…much more informed, but still not sure.
            Bryce Edwards has posted on his blog about the length of term, he is very against an increase. Not sure how many other people in the media will take the same position as Bryce Edwards and voice their opposition to having their mug on TV more often.

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