Are we?

While at the Save Radio NZ lunch-at-parliament today, it occurred to me that we’re probably the only country in the first world where you’re allowed to climb the trees on parliament grounds. Is this true?

If so, I think it says a lot about us.


21 thoughts on “Are we?

  1. Ah, kiwi political thought at its best.

    “We might be unique, but we might not, but if we are, that says something awesome about us, but if not, oh well”

  2. I really don’t know and to be honest I couldn’t care less. To me this post says far, far more about your conceptualisation of the extra-national ‘overseas’ than it says anything about your conceptualisation of New Zealand, let alone anything substantive about New Zealand.

    Good luck finding out, though. To narrow your analysis down a little bit, a lot of Parliaments don’t even have trees in their grounds.

  3. Hugh, you seem to be suggesting that I’m some sort of wide-eyed yokel, looking at the big ol’ world from afar and responding parochially. That’s the wrong inference to take.

    There’s value, albeit just a little, in looking at some of the characteristics of our democracy and drawing inferences, however casual, about our political identity.

    Your last statement really just illustrates that you missed the point: trees are just an example. I could as easily have talked about the fact that anyone can go and have a beer with an MP on a Wednesday night at the Backbencher; or a bunch of other things which are far from the norm elsewhere. Don’t you think that has any relevance?


  4. Not necessarily a yokel, just a nationalist.

    Your example of the Backbencher is illustrative. You really feel that the ability to meet legislators in social settings is really that much more pronounced here than it is in the rest of the world?

    I think you’re backtracing. You, like pretty much everybody else in the entire world, feel that one of your nation’s admirable qualities is that you and your co-nationals are more informal, relaxed and socially comfortable than All Those Other Guys (TM) (who all think the same thing, ironically). Then you go looking for examples to confirm that.

  5. Hugh, it seems the term ‘nationalist’ has become a bit devalued if that’s all it takes to be branded as one.

    Do you happen to have any counter-examples of how legislators in other comparable polities are similarly or more accessible on a social basis, and where the degree of formality around the offices of government are similar or less — for example. I ask because I’ve lived in countries where the legislature is permanently surrounded by a phalanx of armed guards and barbed wire, and in post-9/11 hysteria mode I would suggest that the strict management of political contact is generally becoming more, not less, prevalent.

    I may be looking around for examples to confirm my assumption, but I think I’m on firmish ground on this one. Happy to be proven wrong, if you want to actually supply some counter-material, rather than simply attacking the premise and criticising my lack of rigour in a post which was clearly idle musing.


  6. In fact most parliaments in the world won’t even let you in the grounds, let alone have lunch or climb a tree

  7. Yeah, Hugh, lighten-up.

    Oh, and BTW Lew’s right – just ask anyone with direct experience of New Zealand’s and just about any other jurisdiction’s political systems.

  8. Lew, ‘nationalism’ is indeed very common, since we live in a nationalist world, where our political systems are based on nationalist assumptions. I’d say any definition of ‘nationalism’ that doesn’t identify most people as nationalists doesn’t satisfy.

    As for counter-examples… if you want to drink with members of the Welsh Assembly, I can direct you to the best bar to do so. They don’t let you climb trees outside the Senedd – mostly because there aren’t any – but jumping up and down on the ‘Torchwood slab’ does not bring the attention of the filth despite the fact that it is right outside the Assembly building.

    That’s an example that I am personally familiar with. I have not had the opportunity to become personally familiar with the parliamentary security practices in countries like Samoa, Vanuatu, Trinidad, Lesotho or other such small, physically compact, decolonised states, but I’m told in all four cases that parliamentarians frequently mingle socially with people outside parliamentary grounds and allow fairly casual access to the parliament’s grounds – I’ve seen photographs of people toilet papering the trees outside Trinidad’s red house, for instance (not as part of a protest, as part of a picnic).

    Chris, I think I’m on solid ground when I say I’ll treat your request to ‘lighten up’ with about as much indulgence as you’d treat somebody else’s request that you ‘lighten up’ when discussing public housing or educational standards or what have you.

    Similarly Lew, stop trying to play the ‘oh gee, I was just messing around’ card. Firstly, if you want to be flippant, don’t mix your flippancy with strong claims about the ‘national character’ or anything else people are likely to disagree with. Secondly, you can invite me to disprove your assertion -or- invite me to just settle down and take it as humour and nothing more, not both at the same time. Trying to do both at once makes you look like one of those obnoxious berks who take the time to tell you they got 150+ in an IQ test and then airily ammend it with ‘but of course, the tests don’t mean anything, do they?’

  9. Ah, sometimes this just ain’t worth it.

    Steady on, Hugh. If you mistook a three-line unsubstantiated bit of trivia for “strong claims about the national character” then that’s no real fault of mine. Normally I’m the one playing the humourless pedant, but in this case you’ve outdone me. Bravo.

    You’ve provided some counterexamples, and while most of them don’t really fit the brief (first-world countries?), fair enough. Enjoy your Friday.


  10. can you climb trees at the cricket like they used to in the Windies?

    and if so why didn’t they plant a new stand at Eden park?

  11. There’s a point. You can bring a couch to Parliament if the occasion is big enough to merit it — but not to the Basin Reserve or even Carisbrook nowadays.

    Bah, humbug.


  12. This post one point, the comments another.

    1) You can climb the trees on parliament grounds.

    2) Some people are mean-spirited [excised]s.

    Leave it up to you to decide which illustrates what :).

  13. Abuse redacted — not for Hugh’s benefit (I’m sure he can handle it), but for the maintenance of public welfare, peace and tranquility, etc.


  14. It’s a bit like the idea of being able to swim in the rivers and drink the water, a quaint remnant of an old era.

    Since market reforms, asset sell offs and SOE’s the people are increasingly remote from their government.

    see the reduction in open government complained about by Greens

    see also the recent opinion piece by Colin James in the DomPost about how increasingly groups of government selected experts will come to guide formulation of government policy (reducing public involvement).

    It’s a bit like the No 8 fencing wire economy (any company establishing an internaitonal niche lacks local funding or affordbale finance and so gets bought up by foreigners and the R and D then gets done offshore soon after because we have no local tax incentives).

  15. Forget the trees, I just want to know whether you were there to oppose the Save RNZ rally; I hope so.

  16. Sorry to disappoint you, JeffW. I guess you’ve missed my previous expressions of how much I value Radio NZ, and my spirited defence of it on The Standard during my nominal week off.

    I can say with some authority that the National programme stands a head and shoulders above any other news source in the country in terms of the quality of its news and current affairs reporting, the standard of its interviewing, its adherence to good journalistic practice and ethics, and the commitment of its staff. This even when I (frequently) disagree with the material being broadcast. It’s a national treasure, and I make no apology for standing up for it.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *