Hide-ing to nothing

Two topics in this post, because I don’t have time to fully develop them.

First, John Key must not ignore the anti-smacking referendum. Although the question was leading, the result was decisive and will embolden people like the Copeland/Baldock/McCoskrie axis of evil to drive the stake deeper into the heart of NZ’s traditional social liberalism. Tinkering with guidelines won’t mollify them, and won’t stop the electorate from listening to them because it doesn’t address the substantive point about the status of a light smack in law. What will do that is the Borrows Amendment. With a view to neutralising further attacks on the discipline legislation, I think the government should adopt and pass the Borrows Amendment with due haste, and put the issue to bed (without its dinner). It’s a mutual-second-best solution, whereas the repeal as passed in 2007 was not and will not endure.

Second, Rodney Hide’s position on the Auckland mana whenua seats is consistent and his behaviour is responsible. The (proposed) mana whenua seats in the Auckland case aren’t the same as the Māori electoral seats – they’re appointed, not elected, and this gives him separate grounds to oppose them. It is not inconsistent that he favours entrenching Māori electoral seats if they exist, but not of implementing any more such seats, and not implementing any seats which aren’t elected. He’s being responsible in clearly signaling his intentions in a fairly measured way. He’s not trying to exercise any more power than he has, but simply saying ‘my resignation will be a cost of making this decision, just so you know’ and requiring John Key to consider whether that cost is worth it. In addition, he’s working with Pita Sharples on the issue rather than taking a reflexively oppositional approach. Finally, this is strengthening his core political brand. It’s smart politics all around because whether he gets his way or not, he comes out of this looking good.

Update: A third thing – eternal guest-poster r0b at The Standard continues to go from strength to strength.


13 thoughts on “Hide-ing to nothing

  1. I was amused at the comment that becuase only 54% posted in their votes it shows that the question was pointless [ I forget the exact word the Green spokesperson used].
    Another approach is to put the 11% ‘Yes’ vote with the 54% which comes out at under 6% of the country supporting the ‘yes’ position ……. talk about the tail wagging the dog :-)

  2. The Borrows amendment in many ways allows for the same abuse which was possible under the previous section 59, “which allowed for the defence of reasonable force.”

    By defining an acceptable level of violence one leaves the law open to abuse and severe misinterpretation.

    The vote no campaign was basically asking for something similar to the amendment pushed by Chester. So going with the “bprrow’s amendment” isn’t really 2nd best, or a compromise.

    Surely what is important here is protecting the most vulnerable in our society. There aren;t many parents who wind up in hospital after being beaten by their kid, and there are no “smackers” who have been prosecuted as a result of the 2007 amendment.

  3. But either way I’m very glad to see that the current government acknowledges this and have not changed the legislation.

    Instead the police review asked for in 2007 will continue.

  4. james,

    The Borrows amendment in many ways allows for the same abuse which was possible under the previous section 59

    I disagree, for two main reasons. First, ‘transitory or trifling’ is much clearer than ‘reasonable’, especially with the baggage which ‘reasonable’ has accrued through precedent. Second NZ has had two years of debate about what sorts of discipline ought to be socially sanctioned and which not, and all but the most rabid have retrenched significantly on what they would claim is reasonable; they’ve had to in order to look remotely credible. The campaign has flushed the issue out into the open and made it everyone’s business, and has established new norms of what is acceptable discipline: the norm is not ‘no violence at all’ as you and I would like, but it is a lower threshold of violence than previously. Because the norm has changed, society will be less likely to interpret the new (stricter) terminology in such a liberal manner as before.

    The vote no campaign was basically asking for something similar to the amendment pushed by Chester. So going with the “bprrow’s amendment” isn’t really 2nd best, or a compromise.

    It was not a second best or a compromise position against a group who hadn’t yet won such a resounding referendum, but my point here is that I think the AAS lobby has its tail up and will now begin to campaign for a full reinstatement of the old s59, or something very much like it. This is especially likely if John Key is seen to be ignoring them. Things are different now – the AAS has much more power than it did before, because every politician, incumbent and aspiring and recently out of office, knows that if they play their cards right they can get a slice of those million votes. How do you like the sound of Larry Baldock, Gordon Copeland, Sheryl Savill, Garth McVicar and Bob McCoskrie in parliament on an old-school social conservative ticket? I’d rather cut my losses now than risk it, thanks all the same.


  5. Gosh Lew, I hope you didn’t hear Pita Sharples excellent demonstration of the political variant of the Stockholm Syndrome on Morning Report this morning. He was pathetic. “I understand why John hurts us, and hey – we love him and nothing will seperate us from our crown limos” sumsup his comments accurately.

    Matthew Hooten made a revealing comment on the politics section of nine to noon yesterday about how inexperienced NZ First MP’s became easily distracted and seduced by the baubles of power back in, I think, 1993 or 96. The same thing has occurred to the Maori Party. They are little more than compliant Kaupapa, and you’ll have to admit you were wrong about them.

  6. Good analysis tom – the stockholm syndrome is a response “sometimes seen in abducted hostages, in which the hostage shows signs of loyalty to the hostage-taker, regardless of the danger or risk in which they have been placed.” Very apt for the maori party situation.

    Getting dealt to after pushing your political agenda is different to a) not trying at all, or b) giving up. The maori party have done neither.

    They might be naive, or trusting or even unsophisticated but they are not after the baubles – of that i am sure.

  7. I don’t think the MP started out keen on the baubles, but I think they’ve been seduced by them. I don’t know why people rate Sharples so much. From my obervations of the man, I would guess it is because in person he is affable, friendly and intellectually sharp. But as a politician he is simply awful. He suffers from several fatal weaknesses. He seems to allow emotional appeals to sway him and he seems to have a bad habit of being persuaded by whoever he last spoke to. He also comes across as a naive political chump who takes people at their word. He blusters when challenged, which again leads me to suspect he works on his gut feelings rather than does his homework. That might work on the Marae, but it won’t in Wellington. Since Turia has achieved her goal of getting rid of Clark and has now lost interest in her job, that means the MP is in poor hands indeed.

    And also – on the referendum. Key was as much an architect of the current law as Bradford. It was his idea to get all cross-party cosy on the issue and it is his baby as much as anyone elses.

    Realistically, no government can change the law back now – the message it would send would be appalling and it would cause great harm to our reputation and “brand” internationally. Given that our largest foreign exchange earner is tourism and that is built on hoodwinking people with “Nuclear free, progressive happy hobbits in a green, 100% pure NZ” meme that actually means something.

    Now Key has decided the law won’t change, the fundies have got nowhere to go. There is a parliamentary consensus on the issue. Listening to Baldock and McCroskie over the last few days it is obvious they are intoxicated with their success and are sounding increasingly bellicose and intolerant. This whole referendum has been a tax payer positioning exercise for a new Christian Party which will be formed shortly. They believe their success has nothing to do with this issue being a convenient stick for a pro-National corporate media to beat the previous government. Sooner or later they will over-play their hand. And then the establishment press will turn on them. Just go read Colin Espiner’s blog. It is already starting.

  8. i disagree about sharples.

    i certainly agree with you around the smacking and the gleeful celebrations that have abounded since the big vote. i don’t think they will slow down their momentum, they seem to think they have a mandate for change.

    may be a storm coming…

  9. With regards for a ‘new christian party’, and baldock, McCroskie and co’s parliamentary aspirations (God forbid..), Baldock and Copeland already have a vehicle, called the Kiwi Party, which proved a fizzer in 2008. Indeed, a party which had this country’s cultural and social identity rooted in the New Zealand one day cricket team’s 1981 playing uniform (the Bill and Ben party), gained more votes than them, and continued to do so at the Mt Albert vote. Which goes to show that smacking is the last thing on people’s minds when it comes to the cruch. Sure they will gripe and groan about not being able to ‘give the little buggers a clip round the ear from time to time’, but regardless of the law, people will still give their children some form of ‘light smack’. Indeed one of my work colleagues boasted about how she threatened to smack her son the other say (I will chance my arm here because I doubt she reads left wing political blogs), it wasant so much what she said about smacking that depressed me, but the fact that everyone laughed and treated it like some kind of joke – but thats for another post. But anyway I think most people are over the whole smacking debate, and it shows really from the letters column in the local paper. When the law first came out, every day it was full of letter about the bill, but now there are just one or two now and again, mostly from perennial letter writers. I certainly am.

    And in any case, I am wondering if the original was fiercely opposed more so because Sue Bradford was sponsoring it more than anything else. After all let’s face it, she isnt exactly middle New Zealand(whatever that is)’s pinup girl is she? Nothing would get up the average kiwi mum and dad’s nose than the nasty socialist greenie Sue Bradford telling them how to bring their kids up, and I think that the large part of it was her more than the bill. Dont get me wrong I have nothing against her, and I admire her for standing up in the face of some of the most nasty vindictive people in the country, but as I said before, a lot of people have a lot against her and dont admire her. People tend to forget that there are people more conservative than her who had supported a law change. For example in New Zealand First there is a sizable faction who have pushed for a repeal of section 59, such as Brian Donnelly, Doug Woolerton and the front person of The Yes Vote movement, Deborah Morris-Travers was none other than a NZ First cabinet minister and MP (they seem to be poppling up a lot now…Robyn Kippenberger (McDonald) and now Tau Henare is swaggering round again).

    As for Turia and Sharples – I think you will find them becoming political history, that is why Turia is quitting in 2011. She knows that the party vote in the Maori seats went to Labour, and she also knows that the Maori seats will fall back to Labour at the next 11. The Maori Party has signed its own death warrant.

  10. good points millsy, but i think the maori party vote went to labour by default and in any forthcoming election the strategic use of the party vote for maori will be emphasised. still big problems tho, getting maori on the roll for instance.

    The smacking debate was run quite well and they managed to turn it into a individual freedom debate, “No one is going to tell me what to do etc.” Smart move from them and well spun.

  11. The (proposed) mana whenu seats in the Auckland case aren’t the same as the Māori electoral seats they’re appointed, not elected, and this gives him separate grounds to oppose them. It is not inconsistent that he favours entrenching Māori electoral seats if they exist, but not of implementing any more such seats, and not implementing any seats which aren’t elected.

    Yeah; but.

    It’s not like mana whenua seats have to be appointed. If that’s his objection he can can make a deal there fairly easily I would think.

    And while it’s true that being in favour of entrenching the seats that exist in parliament does not necessarily mean you would support creating new seats in Auckland, it does raise the question of what the principle actually is that you are following that supposedly underlies both positions.

    As I understand the entrenchment argument, (and I sure as could be wrong) it’s about assuring that the seats can’t be easily abolished without maori buy-in. So the principle behind that position would be “we shouldn’t get rid of those seats without consent, that should be something driven by Maori”

    It’s a pretty fine line to make that compatible with what he’s doing now. Maybe he’s working off two different principles, or his principle for entrenching the seats is something other than mine.

    On the ministerial responsibility, ‘won’t put my name to something I’m opposed to’ bit he’s on more solid ground. But again, what’s the actual principle that’s driving it beyond ‘Don’t want maori seats’? I’m not sure that he’s said much beyond that. And that’s not a principle, it’s a position derived from some, unstated, principle.

    It’s interesting that he’s chosen this issue to make a stand on. ACT’s got a fairly strongly defined Local Government policy, he’s the Minister. Have there been any other little lines in the sand drawn I wonder, or is just this? Who knows and the Nat’s won’t be telling. But it’d be kind of weird if mana whenua seats for aklnd is the point at which he says ‘this far but no more’.

  12. What a good discussion, even though I disagree with much of it. I’m sorry the post which follows is so long; I’ve been too busy all day to even look at the topic.

    I agree that Sharples has been a wet fish on this issue, and is being shown up by Tau Henare of all people. He’s trying to be moderate and not frighten the horses before the Foreshore and Seabed review decision. I have some sympathy for this line of reasoning, since the FSA being repealed or substantially reformed is a much bigger deal than a couple of mana whenua seats on a council whose structure is likely to be fundamentally majoritarian with FPP and at-large councillors and a Lord Mayor with strong executive powers. Also, the biggest problem indigenous political movements have faced throughout Aotearoa’s history is that they’ve always been pegged as separatist radicals and marginalised on that basis. Sharples and Turia have (rightly) been exceeedingly careful to not risk this, but I think this is a case on which they should have made a stand – not to the extent of resigning, but much more than the frankly procedural call for a free vote and for MPs to cross the floor. The decision is made; there is no policy gain to be extracted here, so they are best milking the symbolic for all they’re worth. Let Hone lead, since Sharples is bound by the chains of office (although from what Lockwood Smith said in the house today, if he doesn’t have ministerial responsibility for this issue he should be able to say what he likes).

    But it’s not worth throwing in the towel over; not yet. The only thing worse than going down in history as the latest Māori political movement to achieve almost nothing would be to go down as the latest flash in the pan bunch of hori radicals, proving the adage that natives can’t govern. The māori party is about normalising kaupapa Māori politics first and cementing Māori in the minds of the electorate as people who can work within the legitimate systems of government, rather than only from outside.

    So I accept the criticism levelled at Sharples and the party leadership, but calling them kupapa* is absurd and while there’s probably some small truth to the ‘baubles’ argument, the implication that that’s the only goal is simply absurd. These are people who’ve worked – mostly without much reward or recognition – for most of their adult lives promoting issues of tino rangatiratanga. They’re not day-traders or seat-warmers. By getting the Foreshore and Seabed Act review as far as they have, they’ve done more in five years for the cause than people like Henare, Te Heuheu and Horomia have done in their lengthy careers. If Sharples and Turia are institutionalised or co-opted, then how much more so are those people, who sat for years on the front benches of their respective parties and oversaw the most sweeping expropriation in half a century. While ‘kupapa’ is a loaded and unjust term (I explain why here), there is a more applicable term which doesn’t bear the same sorts of connotations: subaltern. Whatever you might say about the māori party, they can walk away from this government without sacrificing their political careers – they are not wedded to a Pākehā agenda as those others are, and they do not live or die at its whim. Will they? I don’t know. Should they? Not yet. This issue of mana whenua representation was an initial test of the government’s loyalty to Māori, but the Foreshore and Seabed will be the real test. They would be penny-wise and pound-foolish to sacrifice whatever leverage they had on that issue in a symbolic stand over Auckland.

    As to the future – the task is to come away from a first term of government with enough electoral credibility to court Labour and the Greens again; to present themselves as a credible coalition partner and commence a bidding war. The gleeful schadenfreude at every slip or failure to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear from many Labour supporters (and to a lesser extent from the party itself) is therefore unwise. In the browner future, no party or coalition will be able to sustain government without buy-in from tangata whenua, and the party which best lays the rails for that connection now will have the advantage; perhaps not in 2011, but later.

    Regarding the smackers: Tom, I accept your argument that they’ll likely overplay their hand and snatch defeat from the jaws of victory through rabid idiocy and sheer incompetence. It could happen. But, damn, if they don’t it’s a frightening thought. A larger threat, perhaps, is that Key looks the statesman (again) by putting the issue to bed and will thereby earn the loyalty of said smackers, rendering him potentially unbeatable in 2011. Labour and the Greens are in a bind here – whatever they oppose, the AAS will reflexively support, so they’re best to just STFU and take their lumps on this, I think. It’s a lost cause.


    * Kaupapa is something different, Tom; if you’re going to pretend to know about Māori politics, at least get your words right.

  13. Meanwhile, as I predicted, Larry Baldock loses the plot…

    An open letter at http://familyintegrity.org.nz/

    “… it would seem reasonable then that I may have been invited by you to discuss some proposals to address the widespread concerns of the majority of this country’s citizens. In contrast, I have learnt from news reports that, prior to the referendum results being announced you have been involved in discussions with those we discover now only represent just fewer than 12 percent of the Referendum vote, such as Sue Bradford and Deborah Morris-Travers. In fact it seems that advisors from the ‘Yes” vote coalition are literally crawling all over our ‘House of Representatives.’”


    “..Because the purpose of the law is to ultimately stop parents from using any force for the purpose of correction!”


    “Prime Minister I have no personal interest in becoming your enemy, but I will speak up on behalf of 87.4 percent of Kiwis who voted ‘No’.”


    “…A recent survey confirmed a reduction in the number of parents using smacking for correction, which is not surprising given that it has been a criminal offence for the last two years. Unfortunately, such a decline has not resulted in a less violent society. I guess this does reveal though, that the law is indeed working, but is that what you and the National party were committed to?”


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