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David Miller: The Politics Of Speed

David Miller Online

The Politics Of Speed

It has been an interesting fortnight on the election campaign trail. There have not been any major policy announcements from any of the parties except the usual rumblings over the country’s power supply, the parole system or the Chief Justice’s complaints over the Supreme Court, which never should have been established without a referendum. Perhaps it was because of this relative calm that an issue as trivial as the Prime Minister’s high-speed travel across the Canterbury plains became such a big deal. Whatever the reason for this debate, it demonstrates the bitterness and pettiness that has seeped into the election campaign.

Dr. Brash’s criticism of the speeding Prime Minister became something of a double-edged sword for him. He was correct to question the need for Ms. Clark’s excessive speed, but after he was found to be ‘hooning’ through a rain swept Wellington city, his comments suddenly appeared rather hollow and a case of the pot calling the kettle black. If anyone else other than the P.M. been seen travelling at such speed on the roads then they would have lost their drivers licence and received a heavy fine accompanied by a very stern lecture from a very stern police officer. The other question is whether it was justified for Ms. Clark to be travelling so fast in order to get to the rugby. I guess being at an All Blacks match is almost a matter of life and death so one can only imagine the measures that would have been taken if someone like Kofi Annan or George W. Bush was waiting patiently at the Beehive for her.

I was interested to hear a chap on Christchurch’s talk back radio last Friday arguing that this was all a storm in a teacup. While claiming that he was no fan of Helen Clark he did concede that the Prime Minister should be given her own plane to travel in. His point was that it was the office of the Prime Minister deserved respect and such trappings of office are a measure of that respect. In many countries that respect is given to the office holder, deserved or not, and many leaders are presented with more than their own private plane. Yet New Zealand is not one of those countries. We may be in the grip of globalisation and constantly hearing talk of our booming property and share-markets but the ingrained Fabianism that runs throughout this nation will not allow it. We may be enjoying prosperous times but the belief that a pauper is as good as a king still runs just below the surface of our society and therefore no Prime Minister of any political persuasion will not be travelling in the comfort of their own private plane. We can handle the fact that the Air Force chauffeurs them around but then what else does the R.N.Z.A.F. have to do apart from rescue stranded yachties?

The other point that sinks the case for the Prime Minister’s private plane and special travel perks is that any respect for the position and office is lost amongst the three P’s – party, policy and personality. The New Zealand public identify with either or indeed all of these and this in term determines their view of the fourth P, that of position. This is one of the reasons as to why New Zealand remains a constitutional monarchy in the 21st Century and does not install a President. Any appointment to such a position will inevitably be judged as to who they are and their political background and until New Zealanders can separate the office from the office holder then this lack of respect will continue to fester.

There was no need for either the Prime Minister or Dr. Brash to be travelling at such speeds, especially if it were only to see the rugby but should the P.M. at least be provided with a plane? I believe they should although I voice my opinions quietly and certainly not here in Christchurch especially as my flatmate was fined 80 dollars after being caught on a speed camera doing 63 kilometres in a 50 km zone. Poor Hamish. Where is the justice?


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