Word of the day

November 23, 2011

Private – Secluded from the sight, presence, or intrusion of others; designed or intended for one’s exclusive use; of or confined to the individual; personal; undertaken on an individual basis; of, relating to, or receiving special hospital services and privileges; not available for public use, control, or participation;  belonging to a particular person or persons, as opposed to the public or the government;  of, relating to, or derived from nongovernment sources; conducted and supported primarily by individuals or groups not affiliated with governmental agencies or corporations; not for public knowledge or disclosure; secret; not appropriate for use or display in public; intimate; placing a high value on personal privacy; a noncommissioned rank in the army.

What’s up at TV3?

November 23, 2011

Karl du Fresne isn’t impressed with scalp hunting by journalists:

THE ELECTION campaign has brought to the fore a new style of television journalism.
It is aggressive, confrontational, highly opinionated and designed to provoke a reaction. Its chief practitioners are Patrick Gower and Duncan Garner of 3 News. . .

The Gower approach illustrates two trends in modern political journalism. One is to strive at all costs for what former British prime minister Tony Blair called “impact” – something to excite the public blood lust.

The other is to put the journalist at the centre of the story. The modern political reporter is no longer content to be a passive observer, but wants to be a player – a maker and breaker of careers.

He has followed this up by asking what’s going on at TV3? It is worth reading in full so I’m not going to paraphrase it.

I am however, pleased that someone who admits he’s voted Labour more often than National, shares my disquiet over both the tactics and the bias.

We aren’t alone. Someone has referred last night’s documentary on child poverty to the Electoral Commission.


No ruling on private in public

November 23, 2011

Justice Helen Winkelmann has declined to give a ruling on whether the conversation between John Key and John Banks was private because it would prejudice an on-going police case.

 “I have not reached any view on whether this was a private communication,” Justice Winkelmann said in her decision.   

“Indeed my decision turns upon the inadequacy of the evidentiary material before me to reach such a view, and in any event, the inappropriateness of my undertaking a mini trial as to whether certain conduct constituted a criminal offence … in advance of a police investigation or trial.”   

The decision means legal doubt remains over whether the conversation between Prime Minister John Key and Act’s John Banks was private, and it may be illegal to publish the tape.   

Up until now media with copies of the tape or a transcript have been reluctant to publish because of the risk of legal action.

If the Herald on Sunday and TV3 had been sure it wasn’t a private conversation they would have published a transcript of the conversation.

Instead they made do with insinuations and someone passed at least some of content on to Winston Peters to enable him to do what he does best – saying something to grab attention but nothing for which he could be held to account.


November 23, 2011

7/10 in NZ History Online’s quiz.

It takes more than three years to get this bad

November 23, 2011

What a coincidence Inside Child Poverty screened just days out from the election.

I haven’t watched it yet but don’t need to, to accept it is a problem.

However the causes are complex and so are solutions.

The problem didn’t happen over night and there was no significant improvement during the nine years under Labour even when the government books were in surplus.

Policies from the left which will increase public debt, raise the costs and risks of employment, hamper economic growth and encourage dependence won’t help either.

Stable government, decreasing debt and policies which encourage independence and economic growth are part of the solution.

Improvements will also require more targetted help, education and improved access to health services. All of those require a growing economy and that won’t come from the left.

Lindsay Mitchell posts on poverty  here , here and here.




Fair empty word in MMP debate

November 23, 2011

With just a few days to go until the referendum on the electoral system too many people are confused about the options.

That isn’t helped by the poor quality of the debate.

The Maximum Institute is doing its best to address that and says:

After a couple of weeks of the referendum campaign hitting full throttle, one gets the sense that we are watching a version of a beauty pageant, where the voting systems are getting primped and preened to look better than they are—their oddities and quirks sprayed over with fake tan. This is a far cry from what the referendum debate should be about.

Like everyone else joining in this debate, we have an opinion about which system New Zealand should have. But our bigger concern is not that people vote the way we would like, but rather that voters actually understand what type of representation and parliament the voting systems produce.

The systems are not just mechanically different. They produce different outcomes based on different understandings of good political representation. To chuck stones at FPP or PV for not being proportional is like blaming your local burger shop for not serving sushi—you are asking it to be something it was never meant to be. Likewise, blaming MMP and other proportional systems for producing coalition governments misses the point that that is exactly what they are designed to do. New Zealand’s voting systems debate needs to focus on how we understand parliament and representation, rather than just sloganeering.

One of the biggest divides between the different voting systems is whether they are proportional or majoritarian. Proportional systems, like MMP, are meant to ensure that parties get the same proportion of seats in parliament as the proportion of votes they received across the country, while majoritarian systems, like FPP, operate on the principle that whichever party has a majority of the seats in parliament should be able to govern. Neither is inherently bad or “unfair.” They are designed to produce different outcomes, and both have their strengths and weaknesses.

Advocates of proportional systems say that they are “fairer” because of an assumption that the composition of MPs elected to parliament should mirror the representation of interest groups in society. MPs are seen as delegates who govern according to the wishes of the identity group whom they represent. But this is not the only way to think about representation.

The other model of representation is the “trustee” model, which assumes that MPs are supposed to use their discernment to make decisions on behalf of the whole community who they represent, including those who did not vote for them. Under this model, the local electorate MPs are directly accountable to voters through their electorate vote, and the representation of local electorates matters more than how proportionate each party’s representation in parliament is.

Each voting system contains elements of both models of representation to varying degrees, but no system can provide for everything. They are all trying to strike a balance. The advantages of each system generate disadvantages that ought to be acknowledged. For example, an advantage of proportional systems is that they can produce coalition governments, which can reduce one party’s ability to ram through laws on a whim. The disadvantage is that voters can find it hard to know exactly what policy programme they are voting for, and it cannot be predicted precisely which parties will form a government.

Another advantage of proportional systems is that they are supposed to allow for the many different groups in society to have a voice in parliament, in proportion to how much support voters give them. But a proportional parliament does not necessarily mean that all parties or interest groups have a proportional influence on the laws that are made. It is possible for a minor party such as ACT—with 3.7 percent of the vote—to be in Government, while Labour—with 33.9 percent of the vote—is in opposition. ACT gets to help set the government’s agenda, while Labour does not. To borrow from Animal Farm, some politicians are more equal than others.

Majoritarian systems on the other hand are prized for their ability to produce a clear and stable government. MPs are also directly accountable to electorates who can vote them out if they are not performing. Yet majoritarian systems also have their limitations. They can mean a big proportion of the population—sometimes more than 50 percent—end up with a government they did not want. This is because election results are determined by which candidates win their electorate seats. Even though a party can win a significant share of the popular vote, it will not have any seats in parliament unless it wins a majority of the vote in specific electorates. Minority voices can struggle to be heard, and while majoritarian systems give voters a clear government and opposition, that also means there is little need for compromise and negotiation in making laws.

Does all this mean we might as well give up? Are there are no good systems on offer at the referendum? Not at all. The point is just that we need to look at the merits and draw-backs of all the systems and determine what we prefer. Deciding how to vote in the referendum should not just be an issue of slogans and system mechanics. It should be about asking how we want parliament to work and what sort of representation we think is best for New Zealand. The debate needs to move to this level.

None of the systems is perfect and whether or not they are fair is very much a matter of opinion.

Under MMP parliament better reflects the way people voted but it  comes at the cost of more power for parties and poorer representation for people.

You could call placing more power in the hands of parties, most of which have little if any more than the 500 members required to register, a lot of things but you can’t call it fair.

There is more on the debate at kicking the tyres.

The wonder of whanau

November 23, 2011

Quote of the day:

“As a nation, we must transform our thinking from what we can’t do, to what we can do; and we must reinvest in the importance of collective responsibility– looking out for our neighbour; caring for our own kids . . .

“New Zealanders are tired of hearing about the dire predicament they are in, and the quick fix solutions that various parties are promising does nothing to create the long term change we need”.

“For the vast amount of resources spent on the industry of misery, we have to ask have these services progressed the situation of our families? What is the social and economic outcome? . . .

Government needs to be acutely aware that their role is to support the responsibilities that properly lie with family – not make our families redundant.

We have to wake up to the wonder of whanau –the incredible potential of our people to do for themselves.

“Exacerbating our people’s situation and maintaining our dependence on others must cease if we are to achieve inter-dependence of ourselves”. Tariana Turia

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