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Anne Salmond on our tarnished democracy

Written By: - Date published: 1:30 pm, August 26th, 2014 - 37 comments
Categories: accountability, democracy under attack, Ethics - Tags: , ,

New Zealander of the Year, Dame Anne Salmond, on how dirty politics tarnished our democracy. Go read the full piece in The Herald:


The Dirty Politics saga cuts to the heart of political life in New Zealand. Over the past 10 years there has been an insidious shift in the way that government works, with increasingly autocratic, arrogant ministers taking away the levers of power from citizens and civil servants. […]

The independence of the civil service has been eroded, with ministers routinely interfering in operational decisions. Last year, the Law Society felt impelled to report to the United Nations that Parliament had been used to pass a succession of acts that strip away rights, freedoms and protections from citizens, in breach of the Bill of Rights. Ministerial accountability has become a farce. […]

If many Kiwis feel disgusted with politics and politicians, and powerless at present, they have good reason.

If the Prime Minister’s office has indeed worked with the SIS to attack the Leader of the Opposition, or colluded with a muck-raking blogger to vilify people who disagree with the ruling party, this is reprehensible, and a constitutional disgrace. It is the kind of governance that makes Kiwis feel terrible about their own country. It’s not okay. […]

There are decent people in all political parties. They must take urgent steps to clean up politics in New Zealand, and to restore democratic checks and balances to the political process. It must adversely affect the lives of politicians, and make them wonder what happened to their own ideals, and how they became complicit in such a dirty game.

37 comments on “Anne Salmond on our tarnished democracy ”

  1. CnrJoe 1

    dont mind if I borrow this for our local paper?

  2. whateva next? 2

    Aye to all of Dame Salmond’s words, and “disgusted” and “powerless” pretty much sums it up….except always believe right will out, just not sure when at the moment.

  3. Anne 3

    All hail to Dame Anne Salmond.

    Will the media take notice? I doubt it.

    And where is the Herald’s banner headline (in blue this time) DEMOCRACY UNDER ATTACK eh?

    There has never been a more appropriate moment in our history for such a banner.

    • Kiwiri 3.1

      +1

      And that’s a fine Dame who gives a damn.

      Who others who have been distinguished and decorated with titles will speak out? Please show your leadership and give us hope.

    • Bill 3.2

      Given that much of the media is absolutely complicit, I also doubt that many, if any, will take notice.

      I notice too, that she lets them (various media outlets and figures) off the hook in her piece. Key/Slater/Ede and who-ever within National simply could not have done what they have done anywhere near as effectively as they have without ‘buy in’ from mainstream media.

      • Tracey 3.2.1

        in fairness herald has a very large circulation.

        • Bill 3.2.1.1

          Yes, the Herald has a fairly large circulation. But one column from one person in The Herld is about the same as (say) a Fisk opinion column in The Independent. It’s said and gone; no follow up.

        • Draco T Bastard 3.2.1.2

          What’s that got to do with it?

  4. fambo 4

    Is National too far gone to have the capacity to self-rectify its behaviour, I wonder

  5. Tautoko Viper 5

    A vote for National gives an endorsement of dirty tricks politics- that it is OK.
    A vote for National is rewarding those who behaved in a scurrilous fashion.
    A vote for National will ensure that this type of behaviour will continue.

    .

    • North 5.1

      It’s ironical (and karmic and poetic) that Slater perceiving himself the mover and the shaker has really, well……..screwed it for John Key. That’s true whatever the election outcome really. From Diamond to Dog. Keeping in mind that TheGodKey has lost ‘control’……this reflected on several fronts……is it too wild to muse that New Zealand political history may record him as something of an “unfortunate experiment” ?

      • greywarbler 5.1.1

        Beware of Slater – the misbegotten child of experimentation lives. The boy in a bubble brought up in a National-rich atmosphere has been enculturated to post-machiavellian levels with added modified blue organisms for the hulk effect – ‘Ware Frankenstein!

  6. Man in a Barrel 6

    Yay.

    What we need in this Country is a public debate about the Constitution Conventions – what they are and what they should be as much as anything to remind or inform people why they exist and how important they are for good Government under a Parliamentary Democracy.

    Constitutional conventions are the unwritten rules developed over time to constrain and regulate the exercise of power by an elected Government. Yes you can have Bills of Rights and Written Constitutions towards the same end, but even the US with its Constitution written from the ground up has developed conventions to make it work. After all the framers of the Constitution did not envisage the two-party system that has developed, and bucketloads of conventions have had to be developed to make that work within the Constitution as framed.

    One of the main and most important constitutional conventions is the doctrine of Ministerial Responsibility, which requires the resignation of a Minister for any wrongdoing even if he knew nothing about it; even if he could have known nothing about it. Ministers should recognise that the absolute nature of that is essential. It might be unfair to have to resign for something you could have known nothing about, but Ministers must be whiter-than-white and recognise that resignation in such a situation is necessary for the ‘greater good’ and for the integrity of the system, as a warning to any Minister who might consider abusing their powers if they can think of a way of getting away with it. And of course it also serves to concentrate their minds!

    Labour has a heaven-sent opportunity here to take the lead, declare what it considers the main constitutional conventions to be (including the doctrine of Ministerial responsibility) and promising to respect them. Other parties will have to follow suit, or explain why they are not, and it should be interesting to hear Key et al trying to explain how they can promise to uphold the doctine of Ministerial Responsibilty while being so blatantly in breach of it.

    • Tracey 6.1

      i concur. My reservation is the discussion gets hijacked to throw away the treay of waitangi.

  7. coolas 7

    Wow. That’s the best writing yet on how six years of National have eroded our institutions and degraded democracy. Thank you, thank you, Dame Anne, you’re one courageous Lady. Hope your example leads to more VIP’s speaking truth to abuse of power.

  8. JanM 8

    Thank goodness for her – I began to think I was living in a parallel universe. I hope she starts an avalanche.
    Kia kaha, Dame Anne

  9. politikiwi 9

    “Debate on this article is now closed.”

    I guess the commenters were cheering for the wrong team?

    • Paul 9.1

      Maybe the Herald didn’t want its readers to see too many comments like this.
      (This was the ‘most liked’ comment)

      “It has been eye-opening to see how the mainsteeam media has played along with the National party for years. Propaganda as news.
      It’s telling that media are not calling directly for the resignation of John Key and Judith Collins. They have both broken all the rules and yet the lead news stories are everything but that.
      We need a public TV station and we need to get political appointees to Radio NZ removed. Otherwise our democracy will continue to bleed with the rightwing determination to take over.”

      • Paul 9.1.1

        Just skimmed through the first 40 comments having sorted by most liked.
        100% unanimous support for Dame Anne’s comments.
        No wonder the Herald closed down the debate.
        Democracy under attack, Messrs Murphy and Roughan?
        Looks like it’s you who are closing down the discussion….

  10. Dan1 10

    I remember Sir Edmund Hilary and various other respected Kiwis came out against Muldoon in favour of Bill Rowling.
    Sadly the RSA, the golf club and rugby bozos were offended and Muldoon got in and wrecked NZ for at least a generation.
    I only ever argued with my Dad over Muldoon, and I fear the same sort of divide is occurring now, with people saying I can have a beer with Key but not with Cunliffe.
    It is an anti-intellectualism which is disastrous.
    Let us not repeat the disasters of the past. Key is a crook who made his money betting against the NZ$.
    Send him off to his mates in Hawaii.

    Have a great week!

    • Chooky 10.1

      +100…’Citizens for Rowling’ was a great coming out of prominent New Zealanders for Democracy!…they made their mark on New Zealand forever…they were prepared to stand up and be counted!

      (even although Muldoon got in again…he had their approbrium hanging around his neck,as a warning !)

      …It would be great if this could be replicated again….in a ‘Citizens for Cunliffe and Democracy’

  11. Topcat 11

    NZ really needs an upper house of review. Queensland is the only state of Australia that does not have one and have a look at what is happening there to democracy. Until that happens NZ democracy is largely stuffed.

  12. Penny Bright 12

    TONIGHT’S PUBLIC MEETING!

    Nicky Hager – ‘Dirty Politics’

    POSTER: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php? fbid=615552501886997&set=a.289660677809516.60189.100002967584552&type=3&theater

    WHEN: TONIGHT Wednesday 27 August

    TIME: 7.30 pm

    WHERE: Mt Eden War Memorial Hall
    487 Dominion Rd
    Balmoral

    MAP: http://www.eventfinder.co.nz/venue/mt-eden-war-memorial-hall- auckland-central

  13. crocodill 13

    “Over the past 10 years there has been an insidious shift in the way that government works, with increasingly autocratic, arrogant ministers taking away the levers of power from citizens and civil servants.”

    The existing administration were party to a culture of power developed during Clark years (and Clark was influenced by earlier culture) and taken forward in a natural evolutionary way since then. That’s why every new outrage seems more outrageous than the last. It is natural evolution within a system that does not change. Nothing has changed. There is no vacuum. It is not insidious or outrageous, it is expected, predictable and completely as it should be.

    “It is this steady erosion of democratic checks and balances in New Zealand that makes politicians feel above the law and contemptuous of those they represent. As the old adage goes, power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

    Politicians come from the populace, excluding occasional phone-in exceptions such as Russell Norman. All the traits we see in pollies during this episode, every behaviour we see in Parliament, is an accurate reflection of the attitudes and actions of average people at street level. Only someone who’s never had reason to step outside their class/culture wouldn’t see it or have been exposed to it. The politicians are us.

    “It is the kind of governance that makes Kiwis feel terrible about their own country. It’s not okay.”

    It is better than ok and must be accepted as ok. Until average people see themselves in their politicians evil, they’ll never grasp the significance of their potential good. Drawing black lines between good and bad is exactly what leads to this kind of corruption. There will be bad, there will be evil. How would we satisfy our endless thirst for anything without an opposite? By accepting and owning our evil.

    Anyone who says they have never done anything expedient to the environment, something that would otherwise contradict an admirable ideal, or the law, or who has never considered themselves the personification of an ideal that is above the law, is a liar and dangerously delusional (re: Greens, we’ve never done anything unethical… Clark, it is what we say it is… Labour, “we didn’t know about Roger…” Jenny Shipley, “ I didn’t move the bus to block the protesters…”). If the moral high ground is what people want to hold, the means do not justify the ends.

    People who feel terrible about their country are fooling themselves, much like a toddler thinks they are the environment, or middle-aged men in bars allow their emotions for the next week, month, or year to be dictated by the outcome of an All Blacks game, or even a group of bankers imagining they are a rowing team in a skiff paddling as fast they can away from things they can’t stomach, like failure and loss. Embrace the evil, accept the unacceptable, and be the good.

    “Unless executive power can be reined in, however, we can expect a succession and perhaps an acceleration of such abuses, no matter who is in power. What’s needed is a truly independent and high-level inquiry (perhaps a royal commission) to investigate the internal workings of government in New Zealand, and recommend a form of governance that has integrity, is truly democratic, and fit for the 21st century.”

    An executive to police an executive? An executive whose values will unavoidably match those of the executive they police? What will the outcome of that be I wonder? We have a commission into power every three years, it’s called an election. The problem is people vote for their delusions, what they wish they were, what they want the world to be – useless ideals and imagination. Their real world is the place they are, their own minds, where they live, their own homes and streets. That’s where they should look for the solutions to fix everyone else. There is no parallel universe waiting, no better life. There is only right here right now. You can’t solve a broken community by aspiring to move to Hawaii or Noosa. Hawaii has slums too, and tanning your ass in Noosa doesn’t change what you left behind. It’s not a glossy travel brochure existence anywhere. No one votes strategically against the system using the system. They call strategy “gaming MMP”, calculating which list member will fall into place if that party vote is put there and then we’ll vote her in and he can get that one… but never think that spiking the system would effectively give another roll of the dice, and when all other direct efforts fail, a chance at chance happening. No one votes against themselves. No, all they see is themselves and their wants, good and bad, and ideals and escape.

    “We have the right to live in a democracy where our leaders do not lie to us, or abuse their powers, or strip away our freedoms. They need to represent what’s best, not what’s worst about New Zealand. We are entitled to feel proud and confident about the way we’re governed, not embarrassed and ashamed.”

    Two separate issues already addressed. Leaders must lie to us so we can catch them at it and renew our sense of potential good that is in ourselves. We must recognise ourselves in political evil. It is not only on the ninth floor, but not our homes. It is not out there in South Auckland or Porirua, but not in Devonport or Nelson. Who voted in John Key’s administration. Look around, was it you? Who voted for Clark, was it you? No, not you, you’re blameless. A vote is always an attempt to wash your hands of the dirty work. No one can trace it back to you, ever, and you can blame your proxy. If you feel powerless or ashamed or embarrassed, that’s just you separated from your potential good. It is a good thing, a wake-up call. No politician makes me feel ashamed for long. When we do enough wrong, people will point it out. You can catch pollies at it, but can you catch yourself? Do you have self control or will it be a case of the Griffins ad… Just one more, ok?

    “There are decent people in all political parties. They must take urgent steps to clean up politics in New Zealand, and to restore democratic checks and balances to the political process. It must adversely affect the lives of politicians, and make them wonder what happened to their own ideals, and how they became complicit in such a dirty game.”

    There are only normal people in political parties and they have the power to clean themselves up right now. Cunliffe isn’t a hero, neither is Key a saviour, neither is Turei a loving mother-in-waiting, and Kim Dot Com definitely isn’t I.T. Santa. Stop insisting these people are symbolic representations of ideals, all good or all bad. Not even ancient greek demi- gods were all good all the time, so you’ll eventually be disappointed that they are human. Embrace your evil, discard your values, and vote for the policies that would best help you find the potential good in you. If that’s too hard, close your eyes and put a tick anywhere.

  14. Fred 14

    Really funny – sadly they are a true representation!


    https://www.facebook.com/pages/JOHN-KEY-MUST-GO/531591143563096

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