Is the baby a political pawn?


Labour MP Nanaia Mahuta wants more baby-friendly rules for parliament after complaining she had to take her baby into the House during urgency on Friday.

But is it parliament’s problem or Labour’s?

Parties are permitted to have 25% of their MPs absent and Labour could give Mahuta priority. Was there no other MP who could take the late slot on Friday?

The House isn’t unlike a casino with its artificial light and noise. Was there no quieter, darker place for mother and baby than the chamber?

MPs have to be in parliament but they do not have to be in the House. If she had to be in the buildings, why didn’t Mahuta stay in her office with her baby?

Parties can ask for a pair – ie Labour could ask National to take away an MP to cancel out Mahuta’s absence. Did Labour seek a pair?

Ruth Richardson wrote in her autobiography that Labour refused her a pair when she was feeding her baby.

That was about three decades ago.

If Mahuta is using her baby as a political pawn the party hasn’t improved in that time.

Life with a new baby has its challenges under the best of conditions. Trying to balance breastfeeding and full-time work make it even harder.

But the cause of working mothers won’t be advanced by MPs playing silly beggars by deliberately making parenting more difficult for political purposes.

Southland party at Parliament


Invercargill MP Eric Roy is reviving the Southland party at Parliament:

Oysters, chocolate, meat and “sheep on a spit” will be a few of the delicacies National MP Eric Roy will be serving in Parliament next month to bring displaced Southlanders together for a night of cheese rolls and southern company.

Mr Roy said the Southland Party in the banquet hall of the Parliament building used to be an annual evening.

However, it had died out about seven years ago.

In its heyday, the night attracted about 400 Southland people to the Beehive, he said.

“It’s about networking and showing off Southland. It was always a good way for us to reconnect – people are saying it’s time we did it again.”

Mr Roy was calling on any Southlanders based in Wellington, as well as any Wellingtonians with Southland connections, to come out and party “Southland-style” in the capital.

A very protein-laden meal was promised with lots of hay bales, swedes and cheese rolls, he said. . .

I’m not sure about the protein content of hay bales but presumably they’re for sitting on not for eating.

The party’s Facebook page is here.

Next election already too close


The exact make-up of the new government has yet to be confirmed but the next election already seems too close.

The Herald opines that it’s time to consider a four-year term and I agree.

It takes months for a new government and its ministers to get up to speed which leaves a little more than a year for progress before everything slows down in election year and finally stops altogether during the campaign.

The uncertainty isn’t good for business:

Massey’s senior finance lecturer Dr Alexander Molchanov was part of a team that studied stock market volatility across 50 countries in the six-month lead up to an election and in the year after.

They found countries that hold national elections have more volatile economies than autocracies because investors and businesses are put off by the risks associated with political uncertainty.

The study also revealed that markets do not always settle down the year after an election.

“Export-oriented industries in particular, such as we have in New Zealand, show higher volatility when political risks are high,” says Dr Molchanov.

 That shouldn’t be construed as an argument for no elections but it’s not only business which would benefit from a longer cycle.

A man employed in the social service sector who works with ministries and politicians told me he was frustrated by three yearly elections because just as everyone was getting up to speed the campaign and post-election changes interrupted them.

A slightly longer cycle would help the economy and save money.

It costs millions of dollars to run an election. Adding an extra year to the cycle would mean we’d have to pay for three elections in 12 years rather than four.

A slightly longer cycle would reduce the costs for and demands on volunteers too. Julie at the Hand Mirror gives an insiders’ view on what it’s like to have a candidate in the family and supporters also work very hard during a campaign.

One reason for a shorter term is the constraint it places on governments when we don’t have an upper house. But the election shows that with MMP it would be difficult, almost impossible, for a single party to gain an outright majority.

The consitutional review panel is considering the parliamentary term. The recommendations won’t be binding and if it went to a referendum the public’s disdain for politicians might well find the option of a four-year term would lose.

That would be a pity. Government would be more efficient and slightly less expensive with a four term year and the country would benefit from a slightly longer gap between the interruptions imposed on it by elections.

Maori seats not needed


The Maori Party is aiming for 18 seats in parliament by 2017.

I hope they succeed because that will prove there is no need for Maori seats.

Meanwhile back in the real world . . .


The oppposition is filibustering over two bills  to establish the Auckland supercity.

Down here on the right side of the Waitaki we might regard supercity as an oxymoron with or without Auckland attached, but that is a debate for another post.

The opposition is filibustering because that’s what they do when they know the government has the numbers and all they can do to pretend they’re not impotent, is to delay the inevitable. No doubt if the boot was on the other foot, at least some of those those complaining about the waste of time and money would be squandering it and defending it as a valid weapon in their democratic armoury.

Meanwhile back in the real world how many constituents have been at best inconvenienced  because the appointments made to see their MPs yesterday and today have had to be cancelled? How many functions at which MPs would have played an integral role will now have to go on without them?

All because their elected representatives aren’t working in their electorates as they normally do for a good part of the time from Friday to Monday inclusive. They’re stuck in Wellington, petending it’s still Thursday, while the farce which democracy becomes in such circumstances grinds slowly to its inevitable conclusion.

UPDATE: With a hat tip to Macdoctor I see that Tariana Turia walked out of the debating chamber  yesterday because while she opposes the bills she is unimpressed by Labour’s behaviour.

Mrs Turia said her party was strongly opposed to the legislation, but said Labour had taken it too far and was wasting taxpayers’ money and valuable constituency time.

“But for the first time ever, I walked out of the House totally disgusted with this behaviour, which Labour thought was very amusing.”

She understands the importance of constituency time and once again the Maori Party shows it’s more concerned about people, and shows Labour up for concentrating on politics.

This is why they lost the Maori seats, why there was a bluewash through the provincical seats and why they lost the election.

Politics might matter in Wellington but here in the real world they should come a very distant second to people.

Parliament’s seating plan


A new parliament and a new look. The  seating plan will be easier to see if you follow the link, but here’s a compressed version:


Hat tip: Kiwiblog

An oath in any other language


The complaint by Labour’s new Managere MP Sua William Sio  because he can’t be sworn into parliament in Samoan had the talk back callers running hot yesterday.

I agree that Parliamentary Services is not being unreasonable. New Zealand has three official languages, English, Maori and sign, MPs are sworn in three at a time and it would take too much time if other languages were used.

Most callers used this argument but there was a distrubing number who were simply racist and used this story to exercise their prejudice.

However, there was a glimmer of hope. Most noted that Maori is an official language and it would be acceptable to use it and I suspect that level of acceptance wouldn’t have been evident a few years ago.

So quiet



NZ 7th in world for press freedom


New Zealand has moved up from 15th to 7th place in an international ranking of media freedom  by Reporters without Borders.

It’s hard to say exactly what that means because while being better than the absolutely awful doesn’t make you good, nor does being worse than the absolutely perfect make you bad.

However, by and large the media is pretty free in New Zealand which is something to be grateful for, and also something we should guard jealously.

Parliament’s move to stop TV filming anyone who was not speaking is hardly worth mentioning in the same breath as imprisonment of journalists who fall foul of the powers that be, but it’s still a restriction of media freedom.

The Electoral Finance Act largely left reporting and comment in the media alone, but Newstalk ZB may have breached the Act because of something said on a talkback. Again this is minor in comparison with restrictions in some other countries, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t justified in being concerned about it.

So while we can take some pride in our ranking, we should see it as an achieved or perhaps even a merit but there’s still work to be done if we want to get an excellent.

Update: Poneke reckons the ranking makes us a bastion of free press.

Recall parliament – Hickey


Bernard Hickey says parliament should be recalled so all parties can be fully informed about and debate the economic and financial crisis.

It doesn’t need comment from me, if you’re interested I suggest you read it all here.

Who will give valedictory speeches?


The NBR predicts there will be tears and fireworks in parliament this week.

It also mentions the valedictory speeches.

Whether or not David Benson-Pope delivers one will confirm if he’s retiring or planning to stand for the Dunedin South seat as an independent, or for a party other than Labour.

Dead horse strategies


 A high country stockman knows that when you discover you are riding a dead horse the best strategy is to dismount.

In the New Zealand parliament however, a whole range of far more advanced strategies is often employed, such as:


  1. Change riders.                       
  2. Buy a stronger whip.
  3. Do nothing because there is nothing wrong with dead horses and this is the way we have always ridden them.
  4. Visit other countries to see how they ride dead horses.
  5. Perform a productivity study to see if lighter riders would improve the dead horse’s performance.
  6. Hire a contractor to ride the dead horse.
  7. Harness several dead horses together in an attempt to increase speed.
  8. Provide additional funding and or training to increase the dead horse’s performance.
  9. Appoint a committee to study the horse and assess how dead it actually is.
  10. Re-classify the dead horse as living impaired.
  11. Develop a strategic plan for the management of dead horses.
  12. Rewrite the expected performance requirements for all dead horses 
  13. Modify existing standards to include dead horses 
  14. Declare that as a dead horse does not have to be fed, it is less costly, carries lower over heads and therefore contributes substantially more to the bottom line than many other horses.
  15. Promote the dead horse to a supervisory or management position.
  16. Declare the horse isn’t dead, but if it was it would be because it was being ridden by amateurs.
  17. Hire an expensive lawyer to prove the horse isn’t dead.
  18. Take all responsibilities away from the dead horse but leave it in its stable and continue to feed it. 


Freedom requires trust


A friend was dropping me off for a meeting in parliament buildings. When I suggested she stop on the street so I could walk from there, she said no, she wanted to drop me right outside because she could, and weren’t we lucky to have that level of freedom.

She was right. We have very free access to parliament and MPs. For those of us who are party members that freedom extends to the opportunity for frequent casual chats and in depth discussions.

But that freedom requires trust which has now been broken. The secret recording of BIll English’s and Lockwood’s Smith’s comments at Friday’s conference cocktail party mean MPs will no longer be as relaxed or as open, even when they think they are among friends.

There is nothing mementous about Bill’s comments (which are transcribed on Kiwiblog); National’s policy has always been quite clear: no state asset sales in its first term and should it wish to sell something in a second term it will announce and campaign on that before the next election.

Lockwood’s comments  show the reality of MMP and he mentions going through a discussion document process so he’s not talking about ramming anything through without consultation.

But the abuse of trust is serious; our MPs will be less free with us as a consequence and we’ll all be losers because of that.

Maori Party not Maori Seats give Maori Voice


Tariana Turia  said on Agenda that Maori have only had a dedicated Maori voice since the Maori Party has been in parliament.

I think what our people are starting to realise though is that when they voted Maori people into Labour they never got a Maori voice, they got a Labour voice and that was the difference, and they’ve only begun to realise it since the Maori Party came into parliament, because it is the first time that they have heard significant Maori issues raised on a daily basis.

In other words it’s not the Maori seats which give Maori people a voice it’s the Maori Party.

Hold that thought for a moment and consider what might happen if a future government decided that the rural people weren’t being represented adequately and created special rural seats.  A Country Party then forms and takes all the seats but gets only a small percentage of the party vote which creates a two or three seat overhang and gives them the balance of power. When urban people complain and want the seats removed, the country people say that would be for them to decide.

Would that be fair or right? No and for the same reasons it is neither fair nor right to have Maori seats nor to leave the decision on their existance up to Maori.

 It has nothing to do with race, the Treaty, or rights of indigenous people, it’s about democracy in which one group of people should not have the right to make a decision on something which affects everyone.

The Maori seats impact on us all in two ways: the potential for overhang distorts the proportionality of parliament which is one of the merits of MMP; and if Maori seats were disbanded there could be more general seats so electorates would be smaller and and more manageable for MPs and their constituents.

The Royal Commission which drew up recommendations for MMP said there would be no need for Maori seats and that has been confirmed by the Maori Party leader’s own words – it’s not the seats but the party  which gives a dedicated Maori voice.

P.S. Muriel Newman disccuses Maori seats here and refers to a paper by  David Round which is here.

Changing Light Bulbs


In Parliament yesterday, Jim Anderton wanted to know how many National Party members it takes to change a lightbulb, Michael Cullen said, none because they want to keep us all in the dark.

Prog Blog gives several answers and  over on The Standard r0b  gives answers for each of the parliamentary parties.

My pick is his answer for the Maori Party: Tahi, but with full whanau support if needed. 🙂

Hat Tip: Jafapete

Update: Bill of Rights Court Decision


Kiwiblog has more details and a link to a copy of the judgement on the court challenge over Bill of Rights issues when the Electoral Finance Bill was being debated in parliament.

If the pen is mightier than the sword, the computer keyboard is the modern weapon for those who fight for freedom of expression. As a republican Davd Farrar would no doubt turn down a knighthood (if they still existed), but he certainly deserves recognition for his determined, intelligent and prolific opposition to the EFA 🙂

EFA Opponents’ Court Bid Fails


The bid for a judicial review of the Attorney General’s decision not to raise BIll of Rights issues in the EFA when it was considered by Parliament, has been struck out by the High Court.

Update: Kiwiblog has a fuller report and response.

Capital Idea to Shift South


Bob Harvey wants the capital to move to Auckland but I’ve got a better idea – move it to Oamaru. Auckland doesn’t need more people or traffic and property is much cheaper down here.

There’s an historical precedent for shifting the seat of power south because our capital was originally in Russell. It then moved to Wellington so a second southward shuffle would simply be a continuation of a natural progression down the country.

It would also give Oamaru the city status for which it was destined in the 1800s until the gold ran out and land wars were settled which tempted people further north.

This capital transfer would have undoubted benefits for the locals. Thousands of people work in parliament and associated agencies. If the seat of government moved south, so presumably would the hangers-on and at least some of them would bring partners and families and this injection of people into Oamaru would increase job opportunites, property prices, facilities and services.

Some will question the wisdom of moving parliament down here when most MPs live in Auckland. But if their homes are up there then working down here would enable them to cover the country in a much more equitable fashion and reverse the problem caused the lack of geographical proportionality in our current representation.

There’d have to be something in the shift for the MPs and bureaucrats and there would be.

They’d get the satisfaction of knowing they had personally made a major contribution to regional development and there’d be lifestyle gains from exchanging the city rat race for the more sedate pace of provincial life.

If they’re concerned about leaving the beehive behind they could bring it with them and pop it down on the foreshore where it could provide nesting sites for the little blue penguins.

That way anyone who doubted the wisdom of the move would be able to wander down to see it and realise how much worse off they were in Wellington.

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