Feel, Speak, Think – uh oh

14/05/2009

One of the – many – reasons I’d never consider a career in politics is that I have a tendancy to feel then speak and only later do I think.

Of course that means that sometimes what I think is uh-oh as no doubt Melissa Lee did after saying the new motorway might keep criminals from South Auckland away from Mount Albert.

It was a stupid thing to say and she has acknowledged that and unreservedly apologised for saying it.

Of course Labour made a meal of it and is determined to keep dishing it up again. I’m not questioning that because that’s what happens in politics.

The media has made a meal of it too and while I’m not questioning them reporting it I do have some questions about the prominence it was given and the fact it’s still getting it.

I accept that a statement made at a public meeting during a by-election was fair game. But usually in cases like this if an MP admits a mistake and apologises the oxygen goes out of the issue.

Why then was this silly story still leading radio news bulletins all afternoon and why has it just been previewed as the major item for the late TV news, long after the apology was made?

Is this really the most important thing happening in the world today?


Foreign place in our country

14/11/2008

Jim Hopkins has been to a foreign place, but it wasn’t in another country.

For all sorts of reasons, principally a stubborn refusal to challenge our own shibboleths, we’ve created a monument to indifference, an unintended but shameful urban disaster.

Calling it the perfect slum would be satisfyingly glib – and unfair. But it is the ghetto of good intentions, an ill-considered, ill-designed place created by well-meaning souls who’ve unwittingly turned a 1935 dream into a 21st century nightmare.

There’s no doubt they believed they were doing the Lord’s work. There’s no doubt the rest of us didn’t give a toss so long as things were out of sight and out of mind. And there’s no doubt the benign objectives of an egalitarian society have yielded a malignant result. . .

South Auckland is architectural evidence there is a Law of Unintended Consequences. It’s what you get when you marry munificence and indifference.

It’s what you create when no one asks questions about what they’re creating. It’s an accident of angels, a bureaucratic folly and a public shame.

The lawlessness, the fear, the deliberate damage and the neglect ought to be foreign to New Zealand, so why aren’t they?

Drug and alcohol abuse, lack of education, poor health, intergenerational dysfunction and poverty are among the causes. 

The welfare state which was designed to help those in need ought to have prevented some of that but it too has contributed to the problem.

Welfare doens’t cause problems when it’s short-term assistance for people temporarily in need. It’s not a problem when it’s long term assistance for those who will never be able to help themselves.

But it creates problems when it gives long term assistance for people who ought to be able to look after themselves and can’t or won’t. By giving without expecting anything in return it creates a culture of dependency, and a dislocation from society.

The benefit system gives people the right to other people’s money without making them responsible for using it wisely. Those who give that money – the businesses and workers who pay the taxes from which benefits come- have responsbilities and if they don’t meet them they face consequences, which could include losing their jobs.

Cutting benefits in part or altogether would cause more problems, especially for families where children would suffer. But the opposite extreme of allowing people to languish on welfare indefinitely and opt out of society while doing so isn’t working either.

Perhaps the answer lies somewhere between. It won’t be simple and it won’t be cheap but not finding it will be more expensive in human and financial terms than pretending South Auckland’s a foreign land whose problems aren’t ours.


Sth Auckland abandoning Labour

03/11/2008

Dene Mackenzie reports that Maori and Polynesian voters in South Auckland appear to be abandoning Labour.

Confidential polling, conducted face to face through door-knocking, factory visits, and the use of cellphones – rather than the standard method of relying on landlines – shows that many voters on the Maori roll intend switching their party vote allegiance to the Maori Party this election instead of giving it to Labour as they did at the last.

The information obtained by the Otago Daily Times showed 40% of Maori roll voters giving their party vote to Labour and 30% to the Maori Party – a far cry from the last election, when Maori roll voters voted largely for the Maori Party in the electorate vote and Labour in the party vote.

This trend was given weight by numerous conversations held with voters across five Auckland markets over the weekend by the ODT.

In a ray of brighter news for Labour, the same polling showed the Maori Party confidently ahead in only four electorates, the four already held by the party.

They are behind for the first time in Te Tai Tonga, which includes all of the South Island, and still neck and neck in Ikaroa-Rawhiti and Hauraki-Waikato, which are held by Labour Cabinet ministers.

Earlier polling and a number of predictions indicated the Maori Party could be on course to win all seven Maori seats.

While there are good reasons to hold electorates, it’s the party vote that counts so keeping the Maori seats but losing party votes to the Maori Party will hurt Labour.


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