Politics beats democracy again

August 27, 2008

Eyes and ears are trained on parliament awaiting developments over Winston Peters and the donations debacle and Annette King seeks leave to make a ministerial statement on tasers.

Political tactics 1 – democracy 0.

Should you be interested in tasers you can read about them in the Herald.


Will Peters be held to account?

August 18, 2008

A Fairfax Media Neilson poll shows that the public is already holding Winston Peters to account.

The poll findings come as Mr Peters and his lawyer Brian Henry prepare to front up to a privileges hearing tonight into allegations surrounding a $100,000 donation from billionaire Owen Glenn to Mr Peters’ legal fund.

Mr Peters also faces questions over the secretive Spencer Trust, the existence of which only came to light after The Dominion Post revealed a $25,000 cheque from millionaire Sir Robert Jones was deposited in the trust and never declared.

Today’s poll for The Dominion Post suggests that the affair has dented Mr Peters’ credibility, with 48 per cent of voters believing Prime Minister Helen Clark should stand him down from his ministerial positions over questions surrounding donations to NZ First.

Thirty-seven per cent of voters disagreed, and 15 per cent had no opinion. The findings are more damning when it comes to voters’ views on whether NZ First should be involved in discussions after the election about the formation of the next government – just 39 per cent of voters think Labour should do another deal with NZ First, compared with 52 per cent who say no. The result was similar when it came to NZ First doing a deal with National – just 36 per cent said yes, and 54 per cent said no.

The polls leave no doubt about what people think but as the Herald editorial  points out he doesn’t need a lot of support.

Ultimately, of course, Mr Peters’ fate rests on the court of public opinion. But MMP allows him to be acquitted on the verdict of a tiny minority, one voter in 20 to be precise. He can survive with the support of just 5 per cent of voters nationwide. And even that pitiful support could enable him to decide which of the two main parties forms the next government. Hence, neither of them has tried to question his financial arrangements too closely.

Labour and National members dominate the privileges committee and there, too, they might not press him for answers. It is a worry that the committee has not bothered to contact Mr Glenn, who thought his donation went to NZ First. Like the Prime Minister, it might prefer to accept Mr Peters’ assurances that nothing untoward has been done.

We would all like to accept those assurances, if only to cease handing Mr Peters more attention, but somebody has to hold him to account, as he likes to hold others. If his peers cannot do it, who will?

It’s up to the voters. If NZ First passes the 5% threshold and holds the balance of power both Labour and National may be forced to seek their support.

Keeping Stock wants John Key to make it clear Peters won’t be welcome in a National-led government. But neither Key nor Clark can afford to write him off, just in case the voters deliver a result which forces them to negotiate with him.

The only way to ensure Peters isn’t in government (or a Minister outside cabinet or whatever other all care-no responsiblity role he’s able to negotiate) is to ensure NZ First doesn’t pass the 5% threshold and none of its MPs win a seat.


Pharmac boss backs Herceptin decision

August 10, 2008

Pharmac chief Matthew Brougham explains the reasoning behind the decision to not fund 12 month courses of Herceptin.

He says that if one of his family had breast cancer he would recommend she take the nine week course which is publicly funded and that the jury is still out on the benefits of the year-long course.

The Herald editorial supports the decision and says that even if Pharmac had more money it would probably not spend it on longer courses of Herceptin.

And Kerre Woodham agrees that there is not enough evidence for Phramac to have reversed its decision to fund only nine weeks of the drug.

Update: Macdoctor responds to the Herald.


Peopleism next step for post-feminist progress

August 10, 2008

When a friend is asked why her surname differs from her husband’s, she says it’s because he wouldn’t change his when they married.

 

That the question is even asked is a sign that feminism hasn’t achieved all it set out to. But I am not sure it’s the best vehicle for continuing the journey towards equality – if indeed that is where we ought to be aiming, because some say that women who want to equal men lack ambition.

 

Moving on from that, there are many ways in which life is better for women of my generation than it was for those before us because of the battles fought and won by feminists.

 

But while the barriers which used to stop women following traditionally male careers have largely disappeared, has much improved for those in what were traditionally female occupations whether it’s men or women who are doing them?

 

Feminism has helped women who want to break through the glass ceiling but it has done less for those who clean up behind them. And while it’s generally accepted that women can go where only men went before, the reverse is not necessarily the case.

 

So while women may be accepted as mechanics or engineers, a man who chooses to be a kindergarten teacher, a midwife or to stay at home with the children is likely to be asked, “Whad are ya?”

 

Whether it is a man or a woman who is left holding the babies, the role of primary caregiver is still an undervalued one and that can be said about a lot of other ocupations, paid or unpaid, regardless of who does them. Because when it comes down to basics, it’s the job not the gender which counts and feminism has done nothing to change that.

 

If you shear a sheep it is a job, if you knit its wool into a jumper in a factory or at home for money that’s work too but if you do the knitting for love, it’s only a hobby. Getting a lamb from conception through to chops in the butchery is real work, but getting the chops from the butcher’s to the dining table and cleaning up afterwards is not.

 

Whoever is doing it, these domestic duties are still largely regarded as the unpaid and often unappreciated preserve of women in spite of the best efforts of generations of feminists.

 

There are a lot more important issues than who does the dirty work at home to worry about, but I’m not convinced that feminism is the best way to address them either.

 

One reason for my reservation is that by definition feminism means for women, which leaves a niggling suspicion that it also means against men.

 

Even if it is possible to be pro-women without being anti-men, feminism emphasises the differences rather than the similarities; yet it’s easier to win friends, and campaigns, by establishing common ground than by highlighting divergence. So we should be seeking solutions to our problems, not because we are women but because we are people and these are people’s problems.

 

Self-advocates in IHC call themselves People First  because that’s how they want to be seen. And surely that’s the best way to see everyone, as people, without labels and regardless of any differences between us and others.

 

I am not repudiating feminism, but suggesting there is a step forward from feminism to peopleism; where issues and concerns are addressed by people because they are people’s issues and concerns.

 

Sometimes a group of people or its members might be better able to help those in the group because of what they have in common. But almost always people from other groups have something to offer too. And sometimes by labelling an issue a particular groups issue enables those in other groups to ignore it because it’s not their concern.

 

In other words sometimes women are better able to help other women, but that doesn’t mean men might not be able to help too; and it might prevent the side-lining of important matters as women’s issues if they were regarded as people’s issues.

 

 

And we’ll know we’ve succeeded when my friend no longer has to explain why she and her husband have different surnames.

 

 

This post was prompted by Noelle McCarthy’s  column in the Herald  and Deb’s response to it at In A Strange Land. and The Hand Mirror

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


No to MMP not necessarily no to proportionality

August 9, 2008

Those opposing a referendum on MMP seem to be saying it will mean a return to First Past the Post. But there are other alternatives which may be considered including Supplementary Member, Single Transferable Vote and Preverential Voting.

The chances of us getting a referendum aren’t high because National, which will campaign on the issue, would almost certainly need the support of at least one of the wee parties to do it and Act and United are the only other parties which say they trust us to choose our voting system.

If we do get a say, I’d prefer to be able to rank the choices rather than just tick one because that could split the vote and allow a less popular system through, which ironically is one of the criticisms of FPP.

However, regardless of the referendum, MMP can’t continue forever without some changes because proportionality declines after each census and it will eventually be too far out of kilter.

That happens because when the boundaries are reviewed more electorates are created in the North Island, to keep the number of people in them equal to the number in the 16 South Island electorates which are determined by law. This means every six years the North Island gets more general seats and there is a corresponding decrease in the number of list seats.

We started with 60 electorate and 60 list seats in 1996; after this election there will be 70 electorates (including the Maori seats) and only 50 list seats.

Another problem with the boundry revision under MMP is that rural electorates are getting too big. I am not suggesting we should change from one person one vote; but I do want a system which recognises there is a limit to the area we can expect an MP to service.

People in an electorate covering 38,247 square kilometres (as Clutha Southland, the largest general electorate does) can not hope to get the same ease of access to their MP as those whose MP has to cover an area of just 23 square kilometres as Epsom, the smallest general electorate.

It doesn’t matter who the MPs are nor which party they represent, it is humanly impossible to service these huge rural electorates as easily or effectively as the smaller city seats.

P.S. For more on this issue see the Herald where Clare Trevett backgrounds the case for a referendum on MMP and looks at alternatives.


Southerners stand by their man

August 7, 2008

Clutha Southland  people are not impressed by the bugging of their MP, Bill English.

As National deputy leader Bill English weathers controversy after the secret recording of his comments about selling Kiwibank, in the heart of his Clutha-Southland electorate voters were right behind their man.

Mr English was “a straight shooter” and an “absolutely outstanding” politician, said two voters spoken to by The Southland Times yesterday.

In a random poll, voters in Gore saved their harshest criticism for those who secretly taped the conversation during a cocktail function at the National Party’s annual conference and leaked it to the media.

“I think it stinks,” said one woman.

Another person described it as despicable. Most of those spoken to believed the controversy was unlikely to hurt Mr English in the polls.

“He should be a little bit more careful what he says but I don’t think it will cost him much,” said one man.

A woman who had been wavering as who to vote for would now definitely vote for Mr English.

“I think this will bring everyone behind him because it’s dirty tricks,” she said.

A good local MP gets support across party boundaries. Bill is very popular on his home patch , he has earned their loyalty so it’s not surprising his constituents are standing by him.

Mud sticks to the hand that throws it and because of that sometimes the person at whom it is thrown actually comes out cleaner.

Jim Mora’s Panel  reckoned there was nothing particularly damaging in the comments which were secretly recorded.

Garth George says it’s the work of a scumbag.

As far as I’m concerned, the whole thing stinks. And it is further evidence, if any were needed, that this nation has not only lost its moral compass, we have smashed it.

And The Herald  editorial says MPs will become more wary of discussing sensitive issues which is the public price of this dirty trick.

All of which I agree with. As I blogged yesterday, openness requires trust, that was abused and we will all pay for it if MPs become more guarded.


What’s wrong with letting us choose?

August 6, 2008

Labour won’t support  National’s plan to hold a referendum on MMP.

What are they afraid of?

A referendum is a very blunt instrument for a very important matter and I’d prefer a Royal Commission or something similar to investigate the options before it goes to the people, but I don’t have any problem with giving people a choice.

It’s our voting system and many people believe that we were promised a referendum two terms after MMP was introduced. We weren’t – all that was promised was a review which was done by the politicians who had most to lose by any change. However, the belief that we were promised a say persists and even if it didn’t, a chance to look at the pluses and minuses of MMP and alternatives such as Single Transferable Vote or Supplementary Member is welcome.

If MMP is working well and people are happy with it the referendum will give it a stronger mandate than the 1993 one which brought it in; if people have problems with it then we’ll get something which might be better.

Labour isn’t comfortable with giving people a say but that’s not surprising, they’ve spent nine years proving they think they know what’s best for us, whether or not we agree.

[Update: I’ve just found today’s Herald editorial which supports the referendum too. It’s here.]


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