Right’s excuses fall flat

Written By: - Date published: 5:56 pm, April 26th, 2009 - 39 comments
Categories: auckland supercity, democracy under attack, democratic participation - Tags: , , ,

democracy-under-attack1

David Farrar, head of the Free Speech Coalition and renowned democracy fighter, has outlined the Right’s reasons for opposing letting the people of Auckland decide whether they want the Government’s proposed supercity. The post contains a bizarre level of personal abuse against Phil Goff but all that does is highlight the weakness of the actual arguments against a referendum.

Farrar’s first substantive point is:

“Labour still has no policy on what it wants for Auckland. Despite setting up the Royal Commission, they are now al [sic] over the place in terms of any coherent vision for the future.”

Wrong. Labour’s policy is that the people of Auckland should have a referendum on the structure that the Government proposes. Incidentally, that’s the Greens’ policy too but for his own reasons Farrar chooses to focus his post purely on Labour and Goff. Regardless, the policy of both parties is to give the choice to Aucklanders.

“the Royal Commission itself said a referendum is only superficially attractive and is plainly unsuited to complex and wide-ranging recommendations.”

Wrong. The Royal Commission made one passing mention of the need for a poll within the context of the normal Schedule 3 process for merging councils. That process is to be overridden by the Government’s special legislation but there is no reason that legislation cannot include the referendum. The Royal Commission does not say referenda are unsuitable for complex issues – it says that the consultation process in Schedule 3 has already been effectively dealt with by the Royal Commission. At no point does the Royal Commission rule out having a referendum and it would be wrong if it did.

“The Royal Commission was of course right on this point. Referendums are suitable for simple singular propositions, such as changing the term of Parliament from three to four years. The reform proposals have dozens of elements to them – one Council, an executive Mayor, local boards, composition of Council, powers of Council, powers of Board, ward boundaries, etc etc etc. What would people be voting on?”

Simple. The people would be voting on whether they accept or reject the structure that the Government has legislated for in the Auckland Act – eg “Do you support the abolition of and the creation of a single council for Auckland in their place with the structure described in the Auckland Act?”. That structure is complex but the question is simple – do you support it? Yes or No. We’ve had referenda on other complex issues in the past, the electoral system springs to mind, and it’s not been a problem. Let’s not forget that it is normal practice to have referenda when councils merge. Nobody argues its too complex in those cases.

“Is Goff really saying that he wants it to be a choice between doing nothing and the Government’s proposals? That there should be a poll, and if it fails then the status quo endures and all the work of the RoyalCommission is wasted? Because a referendum is not something that allows you to modify a proposal, like a select committee process. It is a stop or go process.You don’t like the bathwater and indeed the baby goes out the window also.”

Yes. That’s called democracy. The solution for the Government is to present a structure that the people of Auckland will vote for. If the people prefer the status quo to the choice the Government offers then they should have it. That’s called democracy. Let’s not forget that the work of the Royal Commission is already wasted – the Government tore up the report and substituted its own, very different, structure.

“Also consider the further practicalities of a referendum? What do you do if voters in six Councils vote yes, and one Council votes no? Do you then have a new Auckland Council with a big hole in the middle of it? Do you give veto power to the voters of the smallest Council that represents around 2% of the Region?”

Again, that’s the normal practice. If the people of a council don’t want to merge with another council, it doesn’t happen. Even if the people of the other council vote for it (happened in 1999 – Hastings voted for amalgamation, Napier against. No amalgamation.). That’s called democracy.

There’s only one real reason why Farrar and others on the Right are arguing against a referendum – they know that either the public of Auckland will reject the undemocratic structure for the supercity that the Government has proposed or the Government will be forced into designing a structure that doesn’t unfairly favour business interests over the rest of the community. Everything else is just an excuse.

39 comments on “Right’s excuses fall flat”

  1. TightyRIghty 1

    and you guys want everyone to think your not a labour party mouthpiece.

    [lprent:

    1. We were discussing it here well before Labour or the Greens or for that matter NACT came up with policy.

    2. For that matter there were blogs talking about it well before we looked at the Local Government Act that was the guide for the royal commission. NRT did – that was why we looked.

    3. I’d suggest that it is likely that the blogosphere drove the parties policy rather than the other way around.

    4. I’d also suggest that both you and for that matter DPF’s post appear to be attempts to divert attention away from the underlying topic – which is why doesn’t NACT want a referendum. Their attempt at an explanation is pathetic, and so are your’s and DPF’s.

    5. The only reason I haven’t banned your arse off here in accordance with policy on attacking this site is because you are finally serving a useful purpose. You help give wingnuts a bad name. ]

    • Tane 1.1

      We (and others) have been arguing for a referendum for some time. Recently Labour and the Greens came out in support of the same position. How does fisking Farrar’s desperate excuses make us a mouthpiece for anyone?

    • jcuknz 1.2

      The history of referendums in New Zealand is pathetic and have served no useful purpose, rather the opposite. With badly written questions which mean that in desperation one votes against since to vote for is to join the extremists. It appears that once the originators set up the words nobody with a bit more sense and awareness of the pitfalls can alter it so the silly question goes forward .. god help us.

      The Super City raises so many points than one would need a hundred question ref and would lead to complete and utter confusion with the moronic having a field day. I would be all for a ref if it was likely to be of any use. Otherwise it is just a silly waste of money.

  2. lprent was the first person to push the “referendum” issue as far as I know. It seems like Labour and the Greens have copied him rather than the other way around.

    I would like Labour and the Greens to come up with what they think a better alternative would be though. I have raised some issues that I think that are important questions that needs answering on frog blog, but I think the same thing could apply when asking Labour.

    So I’ll just take my comment on frogblog and apply it here. Substitute “Labour” for “Greens” where appropriate:

    What is the policy of Greens on the super-city, specifically? It seems like they’ve been caught up in critcising the process and may have lost sight on what they actually think of the idea. A few thoughts/questions:

    1) Do the Greens consider the super-city idea, in principle, to be a good one?
    2) What are the good aspects of the proposal? (I assume one Transport Agency is supported, perhaps the idea of one District Plan too)
    3) What should be changed? (Thinking more power should be given to the local boards, and also the removal of at large councillors).

    What do the Greens think of other changes made by the government to the RC’s recommendations? Seems like the loss of local government having more say in social matters would be something of concern to the Greens.

    Are the Greens concerned about the fact that the ARC will not continue to exist? The ARC is the agency that most strongly advocates for the environment in the Auckland Region; it is the guardian of the Metropolitan Urban Limits; it often ends up battling District and City councils to ensure their plans actually do what they should do. Should some sort of “Environment Auckland’ agency be added to the Super-City structure to ensure that there remains some sort of independent enviornmental watchdog group for Auckland. Something like an environmental version of the Historic Places Trust perhaps?

    Regarding transport, what of the government’s decision to not give the Regional Transport Authority more say in how state highways are funded or managed? Or of not having “outcome based funding’ as proposed by the royal commission?

    So many questions, so few answers ..

    Just to add, I think all DPF is saying is that “Labour/Greens need a policy on this”. I agree with him to that extent.

    • Tane 2.1

      lprent was the first person to push the “referendum’ issue as far as I know.

      Actually I think No Right Turn was first off the block:
      http://norightturn.blogspot.com/2009/04/referendum-on-supercity.html

      Though we’ve been running pretty hard on it. Part of that’s because I and many others simply assumed for a long time that there would be a referendum for something like this. It came as quite a shock they were planning to just ram it through under special legislation.

      I think all DPF is saying is that “Labour/Greens need a policy on this’.

      I seriously doubt it. He’s running cover for National and ACT by trying to confuse the referendum argument. As for Labour and the Greens’ policy, I guess that’s up to them to articulate themselves. Doesn’t change the need for a referendum though.

  3. Jared 3

    Im struggling to see apart from a resounding yes or no, as to what a referendum will constructively bring to the table. Apart from councils concerned at their impending doom, few seem to really care about the change in representation. The reasoning behind a “supercity” was that logically, different parts of Auckland were once spread out and defined, these days the local councils hardly reflect the days gone. But if we are honest, exactly what is different between the Royal Commissions recommendations and the plan the government intend on introducing, removing 6 local councils, and replacing them with more powerful community boards. How is this “undemocratic”?

    Surely this is about reducing ridiculous overspending by having one service under a council, instead of 6. Ratepayers have already voiced their concern about rates rises, and the increased cost of providing services is one of the biggest factors in a councils ever increasing budget.

    But let me reiterate, the differences in opinion

    ROYAL COMMISSION
    * 10 ward councillors
    * 10 councillors elected at large

    GOVERNMENT
    * 12 ward councillors
    * 8 councillors elected at large

    AUCKLAND MAYORS
    * 20 ward councillorse

    The royal commission also recommended 6 local councils, and the government has decided on 20-30 local boards. As an Manukau City council resident I find the local community board far more willing to listen than the council has ever been, and to me this is the key element in local democracy, being heard. This isn’t an attack on democracy, this is an excuse for the left to allege the right are trying to take our freedoms, and better yet, a feeble attempt by local councils to prove their worth.

    • BLiP 3.1

      The community boards as they are presently listen AND act. Under the Hide’s proposal, the community boards can listen but do nothing.

      • Jared 3.1.1

        Thats bullshit. At the moment in for instance Manukau all they can do is

        “Responsibilities in agreement with Manukau City Council:
        * Provide a communication link between the community and council
        * Act as council’s ‘agent’ seeking community responses on specific matters
        * Undertake local initiatives as appropriate
        * Exercise delegated functions to:
        o allocate specified council expenditure (including streetworks, parks, street trees, streetlighting, local grants, street beautification and signage, community development grants, holiday programmes)
        o approve non-sporting specified activities, the siting of buildings and signage on parks, approve parking restrictions on roads, if any submissions in opposition, and in public carparks
        o approve traffic constraints, traffic controls, heavy vehicle parking bans and pedestrian crossings
        o determine objections to the siting of bus shelters, cutting down or trimming trees on council land
        o determine appeals relating to barking dogs, general bylaws and litter notices
        o undertake notified Resource Consent hearings.

        What we havent seen yet is the nature of the cohesive relationship between the Auckland Council and the community boards, and whilst they may not have the power they once had, i fail to see why they wouldnt have the influence they once had. Just like “recommendations” for the Governor General from the Government which whilst in nature are merely “recommendations” are in reality accepted at face value, recommendations or suggestions from the new community boards are likely to be accepted as they are. However IMO the changes I feel are for the best, if anything and I think the plan will be changed to reflect this, but community boards should have power and funding, but the local council structure suggested by the royal commission is unsuitable. There is still the select committee process and Key has already said that “The Government is not so arrogant that it won’t listen to the submissions that are made before or during the select committee process,”

        • BLiP 3.1.1.1

          Under the Hide proposal it would have been impossible for the Tamaki Community Board to give the Otahuhu RSA $2900 for the ANZAC Day Parade. As a result, the event would have been in jeopardy. You call that democracy . . .

          You’re full of shit or naive if you think the Community Boards will have any impact on the the workings of the Super Council as promoted by your boy Rodney. As far as he’s concerned, all the Boards are good for is dog control.

          • Jared 3.1.1.1.1

            You are assuming that all recommendations made will be ignored, far from it. Your naivety is astounding, are you forgetting the councillors are ELECTED? and that placating the interests of the population are its primary objective if they have any chance of gaining a re election? You are also assuming this is going to be the status quo after the select committee which I have already highlighted is unlikely. John Key has said he will listen to the people, and I have already said I support community board funding and power, yet you seem to think that proposal is set in stone.

          • BLiP 3.1.1.1.2

            “Unlikely” doesn’t cut it.

            Yes, the Board members are elected but will be silenced because they have no power. In effect, under the ACT proposal they are reduced to the status of any other lobby appearing before the Lord Mayor. That’s your idea of democracy?

            John Key said he wasn’t taking any more holidays this year but was earlier this month in China for a holiday with his family. That you believe anything the Goober has to say is testimony to your naivety.

        • lprent 3.1.1.2

          The problem is that Rodney’s proposals are quite flawed and needs considerable revision to be workable. His timetable to complete the Auckland super-city is simply too short to achieve that.

          Rodney (and DPF’s) objections to having a referendum do not hold water. After all there is a yes/no to a limited number of proposals. The responsibility of the government is to make sure that those proposals are coherent, understandable, and fair. If they are not, the referendum on them will produce a ‘fail’ from the electorate. Essentially Rodney is saying that he is incapable of producing such a proposal and making sure that the electorate will understand it and vote for it. Not exactly a stunning self-assessment of his own skills.

          There is a simpler explanation for his bashfulness about submitting his work to the electorate – time. To hit his target of being in place in the elections in 2010, he’d have to have the Act passed and ready for the setting of the ward boundaries in April 2010. It is all unachievable if there is a referendum – that is the basic objection of the NACT government to having one.

          In fact I’d suggest that he cannot even get a good select committee process.The proposal that he is putting up is completely different to the Royal Commissions. Consequently there will be at least as many written submissions, oral submissions and probably many more than the Royal Commission.

          To achieve Rodney’s timetable of getting the new bill in force before April 2010, the select committee process will have to be extraordinarily short for the level of submissions. It is likely that it will wind up as being travesty of a ‘consultation’. Any referendum will reward such poor work with a fail.

          Perhaps Rodney should move his time table to something that is achievable with the standard democratic processes for local body changes in place. Then he could drop his arrogant denial of a referendum with which his work could be judged by the electorate.

          • Jared 3.1.1.2.1

            For the record, where does it quote John Key as saying “he wasn’t taking any more holidays this year”

            Thanks

          • BLiP 3.1.1.2.2

            refer “Political Diary’ NZH 18th Apirl 2009 p18

      • jcuknz 3.1.2

        I think that is a stupid statement because the whole point of the boards is to make representations to the council .. otherwise why have them unless you are a cynic and suggest that they are a sop to the public … an ear without a head behind purely to pacify the public ….really a situtation I do not believe in.

        The real problem in local government, irrespective of super or ordinary city, are the folk working in the administrations pushing their own barrow at the cost to the ratepayers. The system of democracy is a complete con, and the Auckland set-up of multiple councils is a farce.

        • lprent 3.1.2.1

          …otherwise why have them unless you are a cynic and suggest that they are a sop to the public an ear without a head behind purely to pacify the public .really a situtation I do not believe in.

          That is exactly what I think and with good reason. Currently in Auckland City, John Banks and the other C&R councilors do not even pretend to listen to the requests and information from the community boards that they consider are not ‘theirs’. At least there is a one to one relationship between community boards and a councilors who tends to sit with the community board. The councilor can at least represent them at council.

          The standard fob-off at council is to send people to talk to the community board – usually a pointless activity. Frankly it’d be better (IMO) for democracy to abolish them rather than continue to leave them. As they operate at present, they obscure the lack of attention from councilors. While they have some minor powers, they really don’t have much to do apart from acting as a conduit of council plans to whatever meetings they talk at.

          When the powers of the community boards are reduced to those of Rodneys proposal, and a councilor will be working across several local boards – they will become irrelevant.

          As you say the local boards are a cynical sop or gesture towards local democracy. If you don’t believe that, then I suggest that you talk to some community board members about what they have managed to change in the last year.

        • BLiP 3.1.2.2

          It makes my skin crawl – but, in relation to the mandarins at Auckland City Council, I agree with you.

  4. Quoth the Raven 4

    It is interesting looking at Kiwiblog. In it we see a post entitled The Stalinist Wellington City Council with the first line Is there no limit to the central planning the Wellington City Council insists on imposing on us? However, on the issue of a massive centralisation effort in Auckland he sees no need for a referendum. Maybe if DPF looks in the mirror he’ll see Stalin staring back at him.

  5. When are we likely to see a draft of the “Auckland Bill” for submission I wonder?

  6. Jan 6

    Scoop has issued a press release from Judith Collins about Auckland governance.
    http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PA0904/S00300.htm
    Interestingly it doesn’t appear on her website at any rate the link appears to be broken. http://www.judithcollins.co.nz/.
    The release contains the sentence :-

    “The Government agrees with the Royal Commission that streamlining local government with a single council supported by 20 or 30 local boards throughout the region will be key to providing the leadership, facilities and services that will meet the community’s needs into the future’.

    This is wrong but begs the question about whether a member of the government and MP for Papakura is unaware of the content of the commissions report or simply careless as to the facts.
    The Royal Commission report discounts serious consideration of the community boards approach in the exec summary as follows: –
    “The Commission concluded that having up to 20 community councils, as a number of submitters proposed, would be costly to establish and run, and disruptive to existing staff and services. The conclusion was borne out by independent financial analysis undertaken for the Commission by experts Taylor Duignan Barry’. After careful consideration, the Commission opted for a smaller number of local councils, based in most respects on the existing council boundaries following the principle of building on existing institutional arrangements where possible.

    http://www.royalcommission.govt.nz/rccms.nsf/0/85E1462DC620553FCC2575850047072E?open
    whereas a whoe chapter is dedicated to the operation of the local councils.

  7. r0b 7

    DPF is the worst kind of hypocrite. In the past he has pontificated extensively on referenda and consultation – his words are below. His current role as lame apologist for National’s arrogant assault on democracy in Auckland shows just how little he believes what he writes:

    The Press on MMP referendum

    I am amazed that some people advocate that the people can not be trusted to vote on what electoral system we use. It is the worse sort of elitism.

    National nukes nukes

    The second and more important is that any change needs to be durable and preferably bipartisan. Only a referendum could do that. The one thing the US wants even less than the status quo,is having their ship visits become a regular election issue where they are in, out, in, out etc. Now some partisan hacks will scream and rant that National will in fact go ahead and change the law anyway, without a referendum. This is of course lunatic raving as anyone of intelligence can work out.

    Tim Barnett on Referenda

    Incidentially I also believe the supreme court change was also of enough constitutional significance that it should have been decided by referenda. As for other issues, I am content with the Citizens Initiated Referendum Act which allows 10% of voters to trigger a referendum on legislation they do not like.

    Electoral Finance Act articles

    This remains the real damage done by the EFA – the process used to develop it in secret with no bipartisan consultation. There was no public policy process or consultation prior to writing the EFB.

    Stupid NZ Herald Editorial

    Hello, What do you call the changes Labour has made, without consultation, but naked political opportunism?

    Wellington – the peace city?

    This is patronising politically correct bullshit of the worst order. And it amazes me how this can be almost slipped through without consultation.

    Kiwisaver and arrogance

    But the way the Govt introduced compulsory employer contributions without consultation or warning I deplore.

    • BLiP 7.1

      Top marks r0b – just the facts. Speak volumes, they do.

      I’m not in the least surprised, however. I was tempted to pop over to the sewer and have a similar rummage but I find I always have to take a shower after spending any time over there.

      From what little time I have spent there, I can tell that DPF must be the laziest blogger in the country. He simply scans the Herald and Dominion sites in the morning, tags a couple of stories, writes a couple of “wind up” sentences for his pet fece, and drip feeds them into the pit during the day. Must take all of ten minutes. Then, when he does put his name to something, it has been written by the National party and the content makes him look even more of a dick.

      • r0b 7.1.1

        I always have to take a shower after spending any time over there.

        Google cache is your friend.

      • RedLogix 7.1.2

        Farrar is a slippery man. He is an archetype propagandist. He has one front for public consumption, quite another just under the surface. I’ve made a point of avoiding the KB sewer for some considerable time, but like you BLiP, a few minutes scanning a few threads and I despair at what passes as for acceptable discourse in that place. The fact that Farrar not only tolerates the unreasoning, demeaning filth, but overtly fosters it, is plain enough evidence of his true character and real purposes. Hiding behind ‘freedom of speech’, and taking absolutely no responsibility for the content of his site is a pathetic, immature evasion.

        It’s like he has the mind of an adult, but his emotional, moral development got stuck at that of a 14yr old schoolboy.

        And yes r0b, the man is the worst kind of hypocrite… and he knows it. I’ve called him on it a few times to his face, and he gets really angry because he is intelligent enough to know the truth, but he lacks the guts to do anything about it. He’s playing a role in a nasty bullying schoolyard game, and he cannot escape.

    • Kevin Welsh 7.2

      Excellent Rob, hope you have done a cut and paste of this onto KiwiBlog 🙂

    • Tigger 7.3

      r0b – superb work – Farrar is twisting himself into knots to defend NACT’s undemocratic moves.

      We all know why they’re pushing this change through in haste. (a) they want to put changes in while they’re in government and (b) they’ve been out of power so long that they’re impatient on getting their way. But I believe they are creating a self fulfilling prophecy here. Instead of handing the right to the keys to Auckland they’re handing the left the seeds of bringing down this government – or at least cleaving ACT and the Maori Party away from National. I mean, when it all turns to custard the three government parties are all going to turn on each other…

  8. Good call RedLogix.
    Some people I have read talk about what a nice smiling man Farrar is but then you look at what he does and fosters and theres a gulf.
    On a personal note tho’ – this blogmobile with Slater on board. Looks/sounds like a mobile infestation on its way to Mt Albert.
    I wonder if the locals will complain?

  9. cocamc 9

    I find it strange that this blog site would include taglines such as Democracy under attack. What democracy has been placed under attack. The Royal Commission was established in 2007 and had close to 18 months to produce a report. During that time there were opportunities for the people of Auckland to make submissions on the future structure for Auckland – and a lot of people (individually and collectively did). The Royal Commissions report was not binding with regard to the final strucuture – the government has made some alterations to the structure and now will be subject to a select committee process – so another chance to make submissions. So tell me again what Democracy has been placed under attack.
    Perhaps the people on this blog site should take a look in the mirror. I seem to recall the EFA was passed by the previous Labour Govt to try influence democracy in more sinister way without any consultation whatsover.

    • r0b 9.1

      What democracy has been placed under attack.

      The democratic rights of 1.4 Million Aucklanders.

      The Royal Commissions report was not binding with regard to the final strucuture – the government has made some alterations to the structure

      They haven’t made “some alterations”, they have chucked out the commission’s recommendations almost completely to ram through their own self-serving plans. The commission might as well never have happened.

      and now will be subject to a select committee process – so another chance to make submissions.

      Which will also be ignored. Hide has already said that Auckland won’t be getting the referendum required by law, and that level of arrogance makes a mockery of any future pretence at “consultation”.

      So tell me again what Democracy has been placed under attack.

      The democratic rights of 1.4 Million Aucklanders.

      • cocamc 9.1.1

        A do you really think a referendum will achieve the result when NZ’ers are so ambivalent about local body politics. Less than 50% turned out across AKL during last local body elections, so how will this be a fair representation – when 50% are not even bothering to turn up.

        The Royal commission recommended a single council – government keeping that major recommendation. Commission recommended that 10 ward councillors be used – government increased that to twelve.

        So they’ve chucked out the royal commissions recommendations? Seems to me they are retaining a significant portion of it

        • BLiP 9.1.1.1

          And which part of the Hide proposal would you say significantly reflects the Commision recommendations?

        • r0b 9.1.1.2

          A do you really think a referendum will achieve the result when NZ’ers are so ambivalent about local body politics

          Who are you, or Rodney Hide, to make that decision for us? What arrogance.

          • jerry 9.1.1.2.1

            What is this proposed question for the referendum ?

            Wouldn’t it be reasonably easy to ask any questions by mail (we get bills from the council around 5-6 times per annum)

          • r0b 9.1.1.2.2

            Jerry – see the original post above for one proposed version.

          • jerry 9.1.1.2.3

            Ah I see …… the point, I think, that is being missed by those fighting the old left vs right battle is that the vast bulk ratepayers are only interested in one thing “will my rates by cheaper” most of us have given up on the councils long ago as a democratic forum and are now only interested in the utilities and public amenities being maintained/improved at a reasonable cost.

            If you live in Auckland I’m sure you’re familiar with the never ending rates rises and the spend up at the end of each financial year spreading chip over the same old roads again and again and again.

        • lprent 9.1.1.3

          Umm so you’re arguing that because democratic participation is low, then we should have less. An interesting viewpoint on how to increase participation. Of course it depends on what you’re after…. Perhaps you’d care to explain?

  10. jarbury 10

    Sounds like the government might be getting the message on the ward councillors v at large councillors:

    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10568787

    • Rich 10.1

      It’s still completely undemocratic to have an FPP elected mayor and FPP elected councillors.

      The only system I would vote for is an MMP council that elects the leader/mayor. If it’s good enough for the NZ government why not use it for Auckland?

  11. This new demonisation of farrar would not have anything to do with the fact that his blogging is causing reactive panicky decision making within Labour would it?
    Poneke summed it up fairly well and Matt MCcarten nailed it yesterday.

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