Archive for ‘Parliament’ Category

The politics of state funding to private schools

datePosted on 06:00, January 21st, 2009 by Anita

In the United States for a long time the Christian Right and the Economic Right existed in parallel trajectories. They campaigned for different things, they didn’t co-ordinate, and they didn’t overlap in membership. Then they started flirting, they each recognised the political power the other had. The issue that brought them together was public funding to religious schools; it was something they both wanted. For one it was direct funding, for the other it was tax payer subsidisation of the education of the rich. The Republicans, keen to draw in the conservative Christians hugely increased the state funding of private (religious) schools

In Australia as John Howard built his brand off his Methodist values, rolled back liberal measures and developed and used the conservative Christians, his government hugely increased the state funding of private (religious) schools.

In New Zealand, as the Brash and then Key led National Party fought against a liberal incumbent and developed its relationship with the conservative Christians both leaders promised church groups that they would increase funding to religious schools. Now they have been elected and are promising to nearly double the funding to private (religious) schools.

Section 59: How did the politics get so murky?

datePosted on 06:00, January 20th, 2009 by Anita

By early 2005 section 59’s days were clearly numbered. The campaign to remove it had been going over 25 years, the big family service provision organisations were backing the campaign, as were the big churches, MPs from both National and NZ First had put forward measures to repeal or limit, the government had been running a publicity campaign against physical discipline for a number of years with the intention of repeal once more change in behaviour had occurred, and the judiciary had been gradually limiting the scope of the existing section. 

The final vote to replace section 59 was won 113 votes to eight. A simple clean story on paper.

The reality was very different, sometime after the 9th of June 2005 the political wheels fell off; section 59 was replaced, but the cost was huge. 

I could (and will :) write a lot about the social forces, but today this is about the political forces. How and why did the politics become so ugly? I have a handful of theories, I’m sure there are other possibilities:

  1. It was a Green bill – that made it easier to paint as extremist. 
  2. Labour dithered – which made it appear that this was an area of potential weakness
  3. National  has been building links to conservative Christian churches – for example Brash spoke to a large conservative congregation (with no media present) in July 2005 about “values” and “morals” and pledged National would fight the bill.
  4. The “Nanny State” meme – it was an incredibly well developed attack theme against the Labour led government, and had been successful against similar governments overseas, and this issue fit perfectly.
  5. Cynicism – I already noted that a National MP had tried to limit s59 (Bob Simcock way back in 2001) and National voted unanimously for the bill’s third reading. But it proved such a good stick to beat Labour with, perhaps for a while their principles were traded against a chance at the cabinet benches. 
  6. Poor communications strategies by both the Greens and Labour – something went badly wrong here, there was no comms, then too much inconsistency, and little co-ordination between the Greens and Labour. [Thanks Danyl for reminding me, I’ve updated this now :]

Representational democracy is fundamentally flawed

datePosted on 16:35, January 19th, 2009 by Anita

Representational democracy in New Zealand necessarily fails entirely to live up to its name. With a hundred and twenty people representing four million or so, this should be obvious. It is a system that forces each voter to make a choice using only at most a few of their views. Which party, or which individual, represents the person who wants to ban genetically modified organisms and privatise the health system? 

Even if the party you vote for is elected, they will hold different views from you and they will vote in ways you would not wish them to. In short they are not representing you.

This not only makes the choice a futile one, but also impoverishes any sort of debate or conversation, because the debates are led by politicians who work within blocks, and are covered by a media which is unable to tease out the individual issues.

This futility, and the requirement to give your vote to a package of policies, means we end up giving far too much power to politicians, and keeping far too little for ourselves. Indeed giving this power to politicians is a mistake. We give people whose motivation is largely to gain power the ability to say they are representing us although they have no desire to listen to our individual opinions, and there is no framework to force them to. Three yearly elections do not allow us to hold politicians to account on individual issues, or even individual actions. 

The problem is not the frequency of our elections or the parties we are able to vote for, it is that the system itself does not allow for all of an individuals views to be represented. Every single one of us is effectively silenced on the majority of our views, and forced to listen politicians claiming to speak on our behalf.

Who took down Winston?

datePosted on 06:00, January 16th, 2009 by Anita

Winston Peters did not fall, he wasn’t even just pushed, he was dragged down by an effective tactical campaign. Some political operative got everything they needed – the evidence, the source, a couple of journos, a couple of commentators and a couple of politicians – and they went for it, and they won. 

It’s tempting to see it as a joint National-Act campaign with a disgruntled ex NZ First staffer feeding them information, but the idea that National and Act managed to work that closely together and completely shared everything seems really far fetched. Also the main source will have needed a single main contact.

So maybe it was a National campaign, carefully orchestrated, inviting Act in when needed. National had the biggest benefit from the end of NZF, so that counts for it. But… National ran a very low risk campaign and this was not a low risk strategy: imagine the fallout if the media had covered the strategy orchestration by the Nats, or if Peters really did have the material on the Nats he’d always claimed.

Ok, possibly an Act campaign which occasionally invited in National? Much more plausible from a risk perspective: Act could’ve withstood this going bad without any real difficulty. But… if you were a disgrunted ex-NZFer, would you go to Act? And how much did Act really get from the death of NZF? And does Act have the internal political infrastructure to pull this off?

Final option, someone on the right but outside both parties – relationships and trust with both parties, but not beholden to either. So no political risk to either party, more plausible deniability for journos (it’s not coming straight from a party operative) and the ability to co-ordinate across and beyond party lines. But… there are only a few right operatives that skillful who aren’t in parties and surely someone’s checked them out.

So, who did it? Who had the skill, ability and connections to take down Winston Peters?

Act says: solve everything by privatising everything

datePosted on 09:38, January 14th, 2009 by Anita

Roger Douglas was on Morning Report this morning, once again banging on about how we should privatise more stuff to save ourselves. I was interested to hear him complaining that National led government isn’t doing what he said they should, given that they clearly are. They have plans for

  • privatising more health provision
  • private prisons
  • increased funding to private schools
  • private competition in work accident insurance
  • privatisation of many local government services
  • private provision of social welfare services

Exactly what is Douglas concerned National is unwilling to privatise?

I do not mourn the passing of the 5th Labour government

datePosted on 06:00, January 13th, 2009 by Anita

The fifth Labour government was a disappointment, an embarrassment, and a litany of opportunities lost. Many good things were done, even the occasional great thing – but right now I can only look back with disappointment.

For nine years with had a “left wing” government, a Labour government, which:

  • put a refugee in solitary confinement for 10 months, despite never telling him what he was accused of
  • employed a senior police officer for nearly four years despite him admitting to the sexual exploitation of vulnerable teenagers and publicly supporting convicted rapists
  • put in place financial support for the children of workers, but ignored the plight of our poorest and most vulnerable children
  • drove a 50% increase in the prison population
  • failed to bring stability to our abortion rules; leaving our bodies to the whim of the next government
  • did not give workers back the right to strike
  • drafted and passed amendments to the Immigration Act removing rights of appeal and allowing the use of secret evidence
  • drafted and passed the Terrorism Suppression Act, a piece of legislation which cuts deeply into our fundamental rights
  • condoned and supported the October 15 raids in which the Police invaded and harassed innocent communities
  • passed legislation preventing courts deciding who should own the seabed and foreshore
  • put NZ troops into Afghanistan and Iraq
  • released an wonderful disability strategy, and completely failed to implement it
  • failed to address climate change in any meaningful way

Don’t misunderstand me, that Labour government was hugely better than its predecessor (and has every sign of being better than its successor) but it could have been so much more; we deserved so much better.

Domestic Violence (Enhancing Safety) Bill

datePosted on 06:00, January 10th, 2009 by Anita

As part of fulfilling their election promises the government has put forward changes to the domestic violence legislation. The proposal will see Police able to issue an order banning the perpetrator of domestic violence from the home for five days to protect the victim and any children, those orders will not be subject to any kind of judicial review or oversight.

The first part is a reasonable approach to the issue, the second is clearly wrongheaded – why should these orders be without judicial review or oversight? Where are the checks and balances?

The problem the Police face is what to do in the middle of the night in the face of a case of the less serious end of the spectrum of domestic violence (in the more serious cases they simply arrest the abuser). At the moment in cases which don’t quite warrant that they have three options: leave the abuser at large and hope nothing worse happens, tell the victim to go to a refuge or a friend’s place, or lock the abuser up anyhow. The ability to issue an order banning the abuser from the house would be a sensible tool to add to this.

Idiot/Savant has called for the Bill to be rejected but that doesn’t improve the current situation which probably sees both unnecessary imprisonment and victims being driven out of their homes. Deborah suggests reducing the period to 72 hours, but I’m not sure it’s the period that’s the problem as long as there’s an opportunity to review inappropriate exclusions.

I think that the Police should have the ability to ban the abuser immediately from the house for five days. The first day that courts are open the Police should then go before the court and have the order reconfirmed with everyone involved able to be heard. The court can then either confirm the order, reject the order or, potentially, issue a normal protection order. The order itself should be subject to the normal review process.

That way victims of domestic violence are protected, abusers are not unnecessarily arrested, and the standard judicial processes and reviews are available to all involved.

What do you all think? We have until late February to get submissions in, so we have time to figure out a solution which would really work.

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