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Worrying about the big stuff

Written By: - Date published: 6:00 pm, March 4th, 2009 - 12 comments
Categories: Deep stuff, democratic participation, national/act government - Tags:

In the age of the media politician, where catch-phrases are given more attention than laws and good politics is awarded more points by the commentariat than good government, it’s not fashionable to worry too much about the health of our constitutional arragnements and our institutions. But I do. Here’s some of the things that have worried me so far since National/ACT took government.

  • The Prime Minister, as head of the executive branch, trying to bully the Remuneration Board, an independent body, into ignoring its governing legislation when setting the wages for the judicial and legislative branches.
  • The PM trying to bully the judicial branch to also call for its wages to be frozen.
  • The PM saying he will “bend the rules” for a company in trouble. Change the rules for everyone if they need to be changed but don’t ignore the rule of law when it suits you.
  • Parliament voting for legislation that the Attorney-General has said breaches human rights and that the Human Rights Commission will also, surely, oppose (before you start, the HRC’s objections to the EFA were met it its satisfaction by changes in select committee).
  • The Deputy Prime Minister publicly attacking the thousands of Kiwis who dedicate themselves to serving the people of New Zealand and the Government of the day as he did in his speech to the Jobs Summit.
  • A Minister say it’s too expensive to ensure women get equal pay for equal work, as is their human right.
  • The Government abusing its powers to go into urgency to pass non-urgent legislation and to cancel Question Time without good reason.
  • I don’t mind seeing the EFA replaced with something more akin to the Canadian model but I fear its replacement will be, instead, regressive. The EFA was a step in the right direction toward more transparent and fairer political funding, its faults were minor (reflected by the fact that no major group was prevented from participating in the campaign and no prosecutions have resulted from the numerous, politically-motivated, complaints). Let’s hope the baby isn’t thrown out with the bath water.
  • Seeing a political party moving to change our electoral system from MMP to a less proportionate system, because it knows it will struggle to remain in government if the people’s preferences are reflected proportionality. And I don’t like that it has designed the referendum on the issue in such a way that FPP will be advantaged.
  • A Minister refusing to work with her department’s CEO and all but calling for his resignation. She is not his employer, and it is for his employer the State Services Commission to decide whether his is competent in his role. Collins’ actions open the door to a real politicisation of the public service and undermine our world-leading system for state services management.
  • Reforms for the world’s premier accident compensation system rolled out when any competent analysis shows the changes will destroy the system. ACC took real courage, foresight, and careful design, now it looks set to be dismantled for ideological reasons without any care or planning.
  • Major reforms to the RMA rushed through under urgency. If we want to improve what is already a world-leading system, we need to do it right.
  • A Minister for Local Government leaning over the shoulders of councils and interfering in their ordinary activities.
  • The fourth estate, the media, staying nearly completely silent on these matters. The only journo I can recall seeing raising concerns over any of these issues is Colin Espiner, who wrote: “refusing to express confidence in her chief executive, gagging him from responding in public, and demanding change ‘from the top’ was beyond her mandate as a minister and over-stepped the boundaries between the politicians and the public service.” And he deserves credit for that.

No government manages to stick to the letter of our constitution documents and conventions all the time but it seems to me that National/ACT is so determined to ram through their political agenda that they are being reckless. The limits that our constitution places on those with power ensures the rights and freedoms of the rest of us. That is not worth sacrificing for political expediency.

12 comments on “Worrying about the big stuff ”

  1. monkey boy 1

    Wow you know about the Canadian model. ‘Bout time.

  2. Graeme 2

    (before you start, the HRC’s objections to the EFA were met it its satisfaction by changes in select committee).

    This is not true.

    Quoting form the HRC’s statements about the Select Committee report:

    Several significant changes to the Electoral Finance Bill go some way to addressing the Human Rights Commission’s concerns about freedom of expression and citizen’s rights to participate.

    HRC website reference.

    “Go some way to addressing [its] concerns” is very different from “[its] objections … were met [to] its satisfaction”.

  3. Ianmac 3

    “And I don’t like that it has designed the referendum on the issue in such a way that FPP will be advantaged.”
    Is there a design published??

  4. What? 4

    RMA is going to select committee – the first reading may have been under urgency buts its hardly been rushed through under urgency when the public get a chance to submit.

  5. the sprout 5

    Sounds like a litany of examples of a Government and Leaders that don’t much understand government or leadership.

  6. Snail 6

    SP, “reckless” makes for pointed reading. Responsibility makes for holding feet to the fire, as it were. Recession makes for the who, what and why, the where taken care of since global.

    The three R’s.

    Keep up the good work.

  7. rave 7

    Ruling class always flouts democracy when it needs to and can get away with it. Good on TS for keeping them ho,ho,ho,ho…nest.
    Democracy for them is a used tissue…its a profitable throwaway line.

  8. A great post SP. As much as individual issues will usually capture lots of attention, it is the bigger pattern of behaviour that is alarming here. A pattern of arrogance that was pretty much evident from their first weeks in power, and has continued since. Yet is this not the very same word ‘arrogant’ that National repeatedly flung at the previous Labour govt? I have always said that those who recklessly fling the allegations loudest , will in the long run prove to be guilty of committing the same offenses themselves… only far more egregiosly. Call if if you will, the ‘Capil Effect’.

    With Helen Clark she would tell you what she was going to do, and she did it. With this crew, they tell us what we want to hear, and then do what they had secretly planned to do all along. With such little pride in the worth of their own integrity, what chance is there that Parliamentary conventions and constitional practises mean much to them either?

  9. Jared 9

    you have to be kidding right?

    “# The Prime Minister, as head of the executive branch, trying to bully the Remuneration Board, an independent body, into ignoring its governing legislation when setting the wages for the judicial and legislative branches.
    # The PM trying to bully the judicial branch to also call for its wages to be frozen.”

    In the middle of a recession and rising wage/labour costs in the public service (who are already chastised for high wages) do you not think its appropriate to freeze wages? Nice spin though, “PM trying to bully the judicial branch” “trying to bully the Remuneration Board”. I’ll bet if Key allowed wages to rise you would equally critical. Or do you think overpaid civil servants deserve more at the expense of more vulnerable workers? I doubt it.

    “The PM saying he will “bend the rules’ for a company in trouble. Change the rules for everyone if they need to be changed but don’t ignore the rule of law when it suits you.”

    My my, you have an awfully short memory. Or do I need to mention “Critical Infrastructure” again. Considering our relatively small economy, most significant corporate activity sends ripples through the economy and market confidence. Don’t forget Labour bailed out Air New Zealand also.

    “Seeing a political party moving to change our electoral system from MMP to a less proportionate system, because it knows it will struggle to remain in government if the people’s preferences are reflected proportionality. And I don’t like that it has designed the referendum on the issue in such a way that FPP will be advantaged.”

    Another excellent spin “because it knows it will struggle to remain in government if the people’s preferences are reflected proportionality” apart from a 5 headed dragon under MMP where Labour pieces together power rather than having a clear mandate from voters.

    You insinuate that National are “inexperienced” and “feel threatened” when nothing could be further from the truth. If you are honest you would admit that Labour is crumbling under failing support and dwindling polling.

    • Jared.
      If the Government wants wages to not rise it should change the law, not try and bypass it. It’s called the rule of law.

      Like I say, if the rules need changing, change them – that’s what Labour did over AIA. I’m not against bailouts, I’m against ‘bending the rules’ in a country where rule of law is meant to prevail.

      And as for the ‘five-headed monster’ bollocks, how many heads has this government? 4, whew, lucky we don’t have that fifth one, it would make such a difference.

  10. @ work 10

    National has been in government before, if all this stuff they are doing was so important, why didn’t they do it last time?!

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