Worrying about the big stuff
- Date published:
6:00 pm, March 4th, 2009 - 12 comments
Categories: Deep stuff, democratic participation, national/act government -
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.