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Stealing our democracy

Written By: - Date published: 10:55 am, May 9th, 2011 - 37 comments
Categories: democracy under attack - Tags:

This is what National have been doing since they came to power, systematically stealing our democracy, from the super city in Auckland, to Ecan in Canterbury.

They (National) have been corporatising and centralising New Zealand.

Instead of strengthening our laws and legislation, they have been weakening our RMA and watering down our emissions trading scheme, plus taking away more of our rights, the Search and Surveillance Bill, being but one example, Brownlee being empowered to rule Canterbury by decree until 2016 another.

More and more decisions and rights are being stolen from councils, and the people they represent.

Another example of National taking away our voice is the the Aquaculture Amendment Bill, the select committee report due out 9/5/2011.

This from Forest and Bird.

When a regional coastal plan prohibits marine farming, the Minister for Aquaculture can change the plan. Currently, there are tight controls in Northland, Auckland, Waikato, Tasman, Marlborough and Southland (they have suffered their share of aquaculture problems, hence the controls). The changes to the Act will allow the Minister to unilaterally open up these areas to more marine farming.

So there you have it. Government the National way, lots of industry representatives knocking on the ministers doors, holding brief cases full of money, just the way National like to do business.

– MrSmith

37 comments on “Stealing our democracy ”

  1. Zaphod Beeblebrox 1

    Look no further than the govt’s heavy handed attempts to impose itself upon the Auckland Spatial plan. Expect lots of posturing and downright bullying if the Auckland planners don’t deliver an infrastructure based plan designed to encourage broad acre expansion into the Waikato and Northland (which is exactly what most Aucklanders will not want). Social, Environmental and Housing crises- thay will not want to see those issues included.

  2. This underscores the gap between rhetoric and practice. National talks about freedom and democracy…then sets about limiting both as much as possible, with minimum transparency and as little accountability as they can get away with.

    If you think it’s bad now, just wait until they have got rid of MMP.

    • Yeah, coz that shortage of spineless cyphers whose only loyalty is to the people who decide their list ranking is really going to hamper democracy.

      FPP isn’t much better (and I’m certainly not advocating for it) but even if that’s what we end up with then hopefully there’ll be a greater number of electorate seats and perhaps, therefore, a greater number of “safe” seats.

      It was the backing of an electorate and an electorate committee – in defiance of head office – that allowed every MP who’s ever stood up against power to do so effectively, from Marilyn Waring and Mike Minogue to Winston Peters.

      And it’s knowing they’re answerable to the people they meet in the streets of their electorate – not in a back room somewhere in Wellington – that provides the only effective, though far from perfect, mechanism to ensure they think about what we want before casting their vote.

      • Draco T Bastard 2.1.1

        No power of recall and so they aren’t answerable to the electorate. It is this fact that makes list MPs more answerable as they can be encouraged to resign by the party and the party will do so if there is enough public pressure. The electorate MP can be kicked out of the party but can’t be forced to resign as both Philip Fields and Chris Carter have shown.

        We are not powerless no matter how much you think we are.

        • Rex Widerstrom

          I’m all in favour of recall and have been for about 20 years, but figure one reform (starting with getting rid of MMP) at a time is all the electorate will stomach.

          Yes in theory “the party” will nudge a list MP out, but in practice it just doesn’t happen. “The party” is the small cabal in Wellington – they determine the fate, and ranking, of list MPs (with the noble exception here of the Greens, where the process you point to could conceivably work but hasn’t had to, so far).

          We’re powerless until, at a minimum, all members of a party rank the list in a transparent and secure way (none of this NZF “have a vote, burn the vote slips, let Micael Lhaws decide” nonsense). Ideally we’d all ranks the lists, if we so chose, as we cast our votes.

          Make it non-exhaustive, so we might only pick the top five we wanted from each party. Or ranked only one party’s list. Or didn’t bother. Once the voters’ choices had been elected then, if the party still needed a top up, only then do the powerbrokers start choosing.

          • Draco T Bastard

            Yes in theory “the party” will nudge a list MP out, but in practice it just doesn’t happen.

            Richard Worth, The guy that Labour just booted. Pretty sure I’ve seen a few others over the years as well. It does happen.

            Yes, our present system isn’t the best but denigrating it on false premises doesn’t help.

            • Rex Widerstrom

              I don’t see the premise as false.

              Worth and Hughes were booted due to public pressure, yes. But that was because their actions were aimed at their own private… enrichment, for want of a better catch-all… and against the interests of the party powerbrokers in that they had the potential to bleed votes.

              Can you imagine Key, say, demanding the resignation of a list MP who was going along with something that was either not put to the electorate before the elecrtion or even was the polar opposite of what was promised?! Of course not, because that’s what list MPs are for – to answer to the party bosses, not the people.

              An electorate MP would at least have to think about damage to his or her electoral chances if s/he did such a thing; a list MP’s prospects would likely be enhanced by such “loyalty”!

              • Draco T Bastard

                Well, if it’s the whole party going against the wishes of the electorate then chances are that the party will be removed from parliament at the election. Some people will, of course, still vote for the party and some of that party may get back in but that’s the right of voters to vote for those they want to be represented by.

                We have power over the list both at the individual level and at the party level. The individual level by concerted pressure on the party to kick him during the term and the party at the general election.

  3. Bill 3

    To be fair, it’s the job of everyone positioned in a representative system to head off democracy at the pass.

    Sure, National have chipped away at the nominally democratic facade of governance. But then, so have Labour by offering their support to some of National’s actions.

    • And so have voters, by alternately backing National and Labour and then moaning when they behave true to type, while showing utterly no widespread enthusiasm for independents – indeed going so far as to scoff at the idea and at those who’ve stood to offer an alternative.

      • Colonial Viper 3.1.1

        What to do, when voters themselves seem determined to drown the baby of democracy personally.

        • Bill

          A small act CV.

          Refrain from referring to our representative form of governance as ‘democracy’. And then maybe some way off down the line a debate on democratic governance can be had. But first, the mental roadblock that’s in place – that proclaims representative governance as democratic governance and also the limit of democratic possibilities – has to be rolled aside to reveal a world of democratic possibilities.

          • Colonial Viper


          • Rex Widerstrom

            Personally I see it as “democracy” in the same way I see gruel as constituting sustenance.

            Yes it’s one form of it. It’s not dictatorship (at least not in the way most voters would understand that term), it’s not collectivist, etc. For want of a better term, we have a democracy in the way someone served a bowl of gruel has a meal.

            Is it the best? No. Most desirable? No. Easily improved by the addition of a few nutritious bits and pieces? Yes. Can these be added a few at a time so the person used to watery tasteless soup doesn’t get indigestion? Yes.

            I see the point you’re making. And I kinda agree. But saying to the great unwashed “we don’t have a democracy” will confuse the vast majority, and subject you / us / me to ridicule from many. Better, surely, to say “Hey, that’s some tasty gruel you got there. But you know what’d make it really good…?”

            [As an aside, I’m reading “The Life and Death of Democracy” by John Keane right now. If anyone hasn’t read it – get it].

            • Draco T Bastard

              IMO, we need to shift paradigms and that’s going to be hard. The shift has to be from thinking of the government as something that tells us what is going to happen to an administrative arm that asks us what we want, tells us if what we want can be done, the best way to do it if it can and how much it’s going to cost at which point we take another direct vote to implement it. We wouldn’t get rid of the MPs in this model as they’ll be the gofers between the populace and the ministries.

              Why else do you think I want to drop the average “working week” down to about 10 hours. The time taken for governance will be chewing up a lot of time.

              • Colonial Viper

                Why else do you think I want to drop the average “working week” down to about 10 hours.

                And here I was thinking that $18/hr wages would be enough so that people could work 4 x 8 hour days and take 3 day weekends every week to spend with their families and in their communities. Silly me.

                to an administrative arm that asks us what we want

                Hmmmm. A lot of people want very conservative, un-liberal policies. Punitive and restrictive approaches to corrections, to beneficiaries, to social liberties, etc. Plus I can see corporate marketing (social engineering) going full steam to affect public attitudes on various matters.

                Be careful what you wish for, is what I would say.

                • Draco T Bastard

                  tells us if what we want can be done,

                  Generally speaking, very conservative, un-liberal policies can’t be done as they go against the rights that are enshrined in law.

                  We already have the social engineering via corporate marketing and advertising. It really does need to be restrained if not completely eradicated but that’s going to take time (measured in generations) and education.

            • Puddleglum

              Rex, that analogy would be ok if current arrangements were accepted as equivalent to ‘gruel’ (i.e., a marginally nutritious diet which could be supplemented). I think the dispute, however, is that you could actually see current arrangements as more like saccharine – i.e., they give the ‘sensation’ of democracy (‘sweetness’) but they provide zero ‘nutrition’ for democratic governance (i.e., no ‘calories’), and even inhibit the desire to have the real thing.

  4. ianmac 4

    I think the Aquaculture Farming lobby in the Marlborough Sounds has just been seeking permission to by-pass the District Council Plan in order to increase the farming.

  5. ianmac 5

    Marlborough Sounds: “King Salmon have already said they will be applying for 10 new fish farms in the first year. Iwi are eyeing up areas that they want and the Government is happy for their new maitaitai in Tory Channel to become one big AMA area.” – Marl Express
    “The Government has vowed to streamline the Resource Management Act, establish a dedicated aquaculture section within the Fisheries Ministry and give the final call on applications to central government. ” -Marl Express.

    So the by-pass ignores any view of folk who live in or use the Sounds. Democracy?

  6. randal 6

    the polls say that national does not deserve a second term but will Labour redress the antidemocratic centralisation and corparatisation balance?

  7. We need an ecosocialist alternative to National and Act. A green left alliance. To make it last rural and farming sectors would need to be engaged. The federated farmers are a farmers union afterall, and the rural sector has often had co operatives.

    What are the alternatives to global capitalism and neoliberalism? That is the question that needs to be asked and answered. What are our alternatives?

    It is likely India, China and Brazil will be more and more influential globally. The middle east is going tru massive social change

    It is about time Aotearoa NZ had some real change.

    The alternative is localisation and participatory democracy. We need more democracy.

    What would a democratic ecosocialist alternative look like? We know what more of the same looks like: increasing inequality, peak oil, resource decline, ecological degradation… The system is not working. The Te Mana party is perhaps a space for NZ to start asking the harder questions. What would a fairer NZ look like? How to we build it. Is ecosocialism the next step after social democracy..?

  8. Labour needs to find ways to make NZ more democratic, and to make Aotearoa more fairer and make its economy greener. We maybe need a set of public forums, like the jobs summit but for the public. We need ways to put our skills to use. Democracy is bigger than labour and national, we need something more democratic that ‘representative’ parliamentary democracy, we need some more community based, more local, more decentralised and more participatory.

    We need more democracy, so we can have real solutions to the challenges and crisis that are on the horizon.

    • Colonial Viper 8.1

      First thing to do is to make the running of the economy more democratic. More funding for decisions taken at the grass roots level, support for worker collectives and co-operatives etc.

      PS I see the email ID system has caught your different user names.

      • Zaphod Beeblebrox 8.1.1

        Can you see Corporate NZ providing the funding for any political party that advocates that? Would newspapers, TV stations and other media outlets owned by the corporate world give localism a decent press?

        Here is the problem- democracy and capitalism don’t mix well. How do you get one without the other?

        • Colonial Viper

          A strong public broadcasting system which mandates high levels of reporting and journalism is one way to go.

          A system which successive Governments have kindly taken apart…

          • Zaphod Beeblebrox

            No argument with that one- the sickness of public broadcasting (Radio NZ is all that is left) shows how close to the tipping point we have reached.

            The U.S. reached that point many years ago where congress (and aguably the judiciary) became a mouthpiece for vested moneyed interests. Of course this has created the seeds of financial ruin- while the nation was obsessed with an irrelevant war, Wall Street was allowed to move into Credit Deriviative Swaps which have created unburdenable private (and now public debt) which they are unlikely to recover from.

            The next stage for NZ will be when we get a Key/Brash government who will entrench corporate interests as the main determinate government decisions, at the same time as handing over our public assets to private (mainly offshore eventually) interests which will stop future governments from ever acting in the interests of its citizens. Don’t watch TV1 or TV3 if you want to hear about that however.

            • joe90

              The U.S. reached that point many years ago where congress (and aguably the judiciary) became a mouthpiece for vested moneyed interests.

              And they’re still at it ZB with Republicans doing all they can to neuter consumer protection legislation.

              The new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau won’t assume its powers until July, but efforts are under way to weaken the federal agency before it gets off the ground.

              Republicans recently introduced several bills that would tamper with the bureau’s funding, make it easier for its regulations to be overturned and even delay its launch. Three of them are expected to be taken up by the House Financial Services Committee this week.

      • Fred 8.1.2

        What email ID system ?

  9. We need a written constitution to counterbalance excessive executive and legislative government power through introducing counterweights amenable to challenge, amendment and/or curtailment from representative interests in civil society (ie the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms). And beef up the Official Information Act to deal with the current situation.

  10. The Baron 10

    Sigh, another quintessential Mr Smith post. Just like the ComCom one, another hysterical diatribe about corporate influence with absolutely no evidence apart from, um, what he reckons is going on.
    You got any examples of Ministers accepting those briefcases of cash for access? Because that is a pretty mammoth claim to make just in the basis of your own narrow minded hatred of the colour blue, Smith.
    The Standard doesn’t really need another writer who plays to the “core audience”, and whose key message is “wow I hate anything that isn’t Labour”? – does it?

    • MrSmith 10.1

      Baron please feel free to point out the facts I got wrong in the comcom post? or are you like nadis and just uncomfortable with the truth, obviously a couple of the paragraphs are opinion, I even stated that in one of them.

      “You got any examples of Ministers accepting those briefcases of cash for access?”

      No I haven’t Baron, but my point is letting the minister make the decisions leaves him open to lobbying correct ?

      The last couple of lines you wrote I won’t even dignify with an answer.

  11. Tracey 11

    Political engineering, so much more insidious than social engineering, imo.

  12. KJT 12

    If we had a democracy and not a dictatorship of politicians, which they gracefully allow us the privilege of changing for another similar set every three years, I would be more concerned about losing it.

    The fact is we never had a democracy!

    These people have a democracy. http://direct-democracy.geschichte-schweiz.ch/

    Parliament, not the people, have political control in New Zealand.

  13. Jenny 13

    “Our coastline is under attack from the government’s plans to speed up the development of marine farms.”

    Forest and Bird

    Now where have I heard that before?


  14. It is all covered in this
    The Shock Doctrine
    In THE SHOCK DOCTRINE, Naomi Klein explodes the myth that the global free market triumphed democratically. Exposing the thinking, the money trail and the puppet strings behind the world-changing crises and wars of the last four decades, The Shock Doctrine is the gripping story of how America’s “free market” policies have come to dominate the world– through the exploitation of disaster-shocked people and countries.
    The Christchurch earthquake was Christmas coming early for our politicians.

    • Puddleglum 14.1

      And the GFC, the (partly engineered) deficit, etc.

      Does make you think what they now might try to push through under the guise of combatting the ‘shocks’ of climate change or even peak oil now that they have dragged their feet for so long.

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