Future Lefts – Young Labour
Future Lefts – Young Labour
Wednesday 24th May, 2000
`One day, we'll have a consistent publishing time.'
Editorial: Constitutional Crises and stuff
AGM: General Blab...
Fiji: A common criminal, that's all
Economic Masterpiece - or Cullen's Folly?
Politics in Australia
News: Really crappy, depressing news
Website: Look yourself
Editorial: Constitutional Crises and stuff
Fiji's current situation would not be impossible here. If you ran into Parliament in New Zealand, you could probably get all the way into the debating chamber before anyone could stop you. I hope I am wrong on this one, but compared to the New South Wales State Parliament's levels of security, Parliament here is slack. In NSW my bag went through an X-ray machine, and I went through a metal detector.
Hopefully, the police force here would do its job rather better!
On another note, last week's critical analysis of the Young National's slow grieving process brought about an 867 word response from their Secretary, one Scott Higham. I found it amusing that the response was longer than the article which generated it. After some quite bizarre jokes about Future Lefts that seem to indicate that Scott doesn't read what he's arguing about, we get to the point.
The point, ladies and gentlemen, appears to be that I am too arrogant.
I'll leave that up to you to decide :)
This week's issue, though late, demonstrates again that Young Labour is a more participatory organisation than any other youth political organisation in New Zealand. I am generally impressed with the number and quality of contributions which flow in after each issue. Both the numbers, and the quality, are improving. I again encourage you to contribute to what is, after all, your reflection that is read in public.
We have, too, arrived at the end of the Young Labour year. Next weekend sees Conference, and among other things, the election of the new Executive. I look forward to working with a fresh Executive that shares a commitment to putting Young Labour on the map, both inside our party and in the wider community. We've been growing strongly all year - now is the time to consolidate those gains with a group of people who are going to put in the hard yards to make Young Labour all it can be.
Anyhow, enough blather. On with the interesting stuff.
Young Labour's Annual Conference is coming up in two weekends, at Queen's Birthday weekend in Wellington.
Details are all available on the web site - http://www.younglabour.org.nz.
Go there for more information :)
A common criminal, that's all
George Speight, leader of the attempted coup in Fiji is a thug, that's all. He should be treated as such. There is simply no excuse for the armed overthrow of a genuine democratic government, as we have witnessed in Fiji. Speight claims to have the legitimate interests, and backing of indigenous Fijians, yet these claims, in the cold hard light of reality, are utterly spurious, and in any case would not legitimise his criminal actions, or his tyrannical regime. The challenge now, is for all governments and organisations with any regard for the basic principles of liberal democracy, to pressurise those who hold sway in Fiji to to scrape Speight away from control of the state like the encrusted scab that he is. Following that, he must be hauled away, and punished like any other lawbreaker. If he is not, the Fijian Constitution will be devalued to the point of worthlessness.
Those of us who believe in the rule of law, and the legitimacy of liberal constitutional democracy ought to be appalled by the events of the past week or so in Fiji. The situation, briefly, is this: A group of seven armed men, headed by George Speight, a businessman facing extortion charges, stormed the Fijian Parliament, and are now holding around thirty members of the Labour Government, including Prime Minister Chaudhry, hostage. Speight claims to be acting on the behalf of indigenous Fijians, unhappy with being ruled by a Fijian-Indian, and fearful of the Government's land reform programme.
This given, Mr. Speight's actions would have been quite legitimate, were Fiji ruled by feudal warlords, that is. I don't need to tell you however, that it isn't. Instead, Fiji is a parliamentary democracy, that operates under the auspices of the 1997 Constitution. After years of semi-military rule, stemming from the coups of 1987, the Constitution put into place a fairly complex system of government that takes into account the traditional Fijian tribal system, the ethnic mix of the country, and the presence of the 'Great Council of Chiefs'. Most importantly, it guarantees a fair, and multi-racial system of representation in the Parliament. Speight, in forcing out the government that was elected under this system, and then arbitrarily annulling that very Constitution, through the sheer brute force of arms, places himself in a fairly contradictory situation.
He claims to be acting at the implied bequest of indigenous Fijians, yet in carrying out the coup, Speight has removed from power the very government that ethnic Fijians supported in large numbers, and the constitution that empowers them as voters to place whoever they please into power come election time. Significantly, Speight's claim that ethnic Fijians are marginalised by the present constitutional arrangement, is hogwash. Not only is the power of the Great Council of Chiefs institutionalised by the Constitution, but the number of seats that ethnic Fijians may vote for is fixed at a level in excess of those allocated to Indian voters. What this means is that ethnic Fijians all ready have a strong grip on the democratic process, and that a significant number of them must have supported Chaudhry and his Labour administration. Incidentally, it is worth taking a note of the progressive reforms introduced by Chaudhry, which include free and universal provision of health, and tertiary education.
Far from any pure interest in protecting the constitutional position of ethnic-Fijians, Speight's motives seem obtuse. One line of speculation suggests that his prime motivation was a pending appearance in court on charges of extortion, while Teresia Teaiwa, a Pacific Studies Lecturer at Victoria University hypothesises that what we are witnessing is something more of a generational and attitudinal clash within the ethnic Fijian elite (see: http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/HL0005/S00099.htm ). More ominously, a nasty racial agenda is hovering around the edges of the takeover. Much of Speight's rhetoric focuses on the idea that Fijian-Indian citizens are quite second class. On a number of occasion's he has, 'suggested' that Indians ought to consider whether or not they are prepared to live under a government that they will play no meaningful part in, and that if they are not prepared for such an eventuality, then they should leave. The object of this type of talk seems to be to stir the resentment that many ethnic Fijians feel towards their economically better off Indian countrymen. It's called creating a scapegoat, and it shows Speight up for what he is - an unscrupulous opportunist.
As I'm writing this, it seems as if the man that I have just described as a criminal, a racist, unscrupulous, and an opportunist, is going to get his way. Reports suggest that the Great Council of Chiefs is going to acquiesce Speight by forming a new ethnic-Fijian led government, pardoning the insurgents, and giving Speight an advisory role to the cabinet. This is sickening. The message that it sends out loud and clear is this: "might is right" Think of a comparable situation in New Zealand: a sectional interest group like the Employers Federation decides that it doesn't like government policy (well, duh), and so proceeds to hold the cabinet hostage, demanding from the Governor General the institution of a raft of free-market reforms. Such a scenario is appalling when put in such perspective - why? Because we understand that to order human affairs at the barrel of a gun is wrong. Democracy, the exercise of power through the will of the people has been won over hundreds of years, and in many ways is our only institutional barrier to barbarism - take it away, and only the strong have a say. This is entirely contrary to everything that we believe in as Social Democrats.
As such, New Zealand, as it has throughout the crisis, must stand firmly against any compromise with the hostage takers. For Fiji's constitution, and it's position amongst the ranks of civilised, democratic states to be preserved, Prime Minister Chaudhry must be returned to power, unconditionally. It is interesting to note that not one of the military men who seized power from another elected government in Fiji in 1987 has been brought to justice for their treason. Several commentators have cited this as something that may well have encouraged Speight and his followers on this occasion. This time however, a line must be drawn, there must be no excuses, and no amnesty. An example must be made of men who not only consider themselves above the law, but who think that their use of brute force gives them the right to make the law
Economic Masterpiece - or Cullen's Folly?
The Honourable Doctor Michael Cullen, Member of Parliament for the Labour Party and deputy leader thereof, has a plan. A plan so cunning you could stick a tail on it and call it a weasle. If you didn't like weasles, that is.
Labour came into the 1999 election with a well-developed superannuation policy. The concept is breathtakingly simple: you save up in advance for the coming burden of a rapidly ageing population.
OK, so maybe that's a little bit simplistic. The plan is to replace over time part of Income Tax with an equivalent rate of tax which will go into a state superannuation fund. The fund will be protected from political interference, all going well, by entrenching the legislation setting it up. The board will consist of Government appointees, representatives of the senior citizens' community, and those working.
Superannuation payments will be maintained at the level they are now - at or slightly above 65% of the average wage.
So, apart from the obvious reason of protecting the future of superannuation as a universal, affordable entitlement at a decent level, why is this so important?
It matters because of the structure of the economy today. Basically, New Zealand owes almost $100bn more overseas than we have got invested overseas. This debt is the cumulative result of this country not saving enough over a period of about 20 years. In the national accounts, the most usual way we hear about the problem is the continuing current account deficit, which has at least something to do with the continuing weakness of the dollar. Foreigners have about $140bn invested here, and we have about $40bn invested overseas.
The difference between the returns we make overseas, and the returns foreigners get on their assets here, is about 8% of GDP - or $8bn a year.
Many people argue that these numbers aren't a problem. I tend to disagree, as do many others, though not for simplistic reasons. The problems should be obvious. When others own more of our own economy than we do, there is an inevitable dependence which doesn't sit well with my instinctive nationalism. It doesn't make economic sense, either. The country lacks investment in many areas - transport, education, health services and so on - which it doesn't make sense to fund out of current taxes, because future generations will benefit from them. What better solution than a system which will secure retirement savings at the same time as helping the country invest in the future?
Those who oppose this scheme don't have New Zealand's interests at heart. Australia, which implemented a savings scheme years ago, has reserves of almost 80% of GDP. That readily available capital helped them to achieve a far, far better growth record than we've enjoyed over the past fifteen years. Complaints that the Government should just run budget surpluses aren't credible. Right wing governments, which have demonstrated an inability to see past the next election for a very long time, would simply use the surplus to cut taxes.
Superannuation is very much an issue that affects us. We're the furthest away from retirement now - and so the future of our superannuation, more than ever, depends on solving the upcoming demographic crisis now. Social democrats stand for public provision as part of the fact that we live in community - and this scheme would be a brilliant example of our values in action, helping achieve a better life for everyone in retirement.
So get out there, talk super, and tell people that only Labour's super scheme is worth thinking about. Cullen deserves our respect for putting it on the agenda - far from being folly, it could well be his greatest triumph. It's up to us to help him make it happen.
Politics in Australia Nick Kelly
During the April Holidays I was fortunate enough to spend two and a half weeks in Australia. Although I was on holiday I couldn't help but religiously follow every political event that happened while I was there.
I'll start with John (foot in mouth) Howard. There is currently great controversy over the so called 'stolen generation' as Aboriginal children were removed from their parents until the late 1960's. John Howard claimed that there wasn't a stolen generation as Aborigines made up less than 10% of the population. This caused great offence to the Aborigines, and outraged the majority of the Australian public. As a historian on ABC radio said "less than 10% of Australians fought in World War One, but Anzac day was still considered important."
The Liberals made a second cock up that same week when they decided the Kosovo refugees they took last year should be sent back. This resulted in some rather nasty protests and even hunger strikes by the refugees. Once again the Australian Public were unimpressed.
The Labor opposition seemed to be doing ok. They've just release their new employment policy, which sounded every similar to the NZ Employment Relations Bill. Though their announcement that the Labor Party would not reverse GST was greeted with the odd cry of "hypocritical."
In Australia the Federal government only has some power though. The state governments are almost equally as influential as the Federal government. Four out of the six Australia states now have Labor governments (Victoria, Queensland, Tasmania and New South Wales).
In Victoria the Labor Party is doing great guns at the moment. After their surprise victory over the Liberals at last year's election, their good fortune has continued. After the November election Jeff Kennet (leader of the Victorian Liberal party) resigned, a by-election was held and the Labor candidate won. Then in April the Leader of the Victorian National Party (the Liberals coalition partner) also resigned. He was from a seat that National had held since the mid 1940's. In the by-election for that seat last weekend, Labor won it with an 8% swing. Labor winning that seat in Victoria would be like Labour winning Taranaki -King Country in New Zealand. This I believe shows a swing of rural voters away from conservative, or more to the point from Right Wing Parties. A similar swing is starting to occur here with Labour now holding Wairarapa, and nearly holding Rangitikei at the last election.
But I think the best quote from an Australian politician was from Minister of Immigration Phillip Ruddock. When asked about the number of Boat people (illegal immigrants who arrive on boats) to Australia, his reply was "The Liberal-National coalition government has since 1996 tried to discourage illegal immigrants by making Australia undesirable for them".......
-- Really crappy, depressing news.
Fiji, island paradise was this week… wait! Who cares??!!? Petrol has gone up! Hugely. To around 108c in main centres. Petrol companies blame the usual suspects, rising crude prices, crashing dollar, blah, blah, we know it off by heart now. They're kind of right though, the dollar has slumped dramatically, falling below US45c for the first time since the mid eighties. This, primarily can be blamed on the incredible strength of the American dollar, but that hasn't stopped right-wingers whinging that this is somehow the governments fault. They're also still whinging about the increase in the tobacco tax, conveniently forgetting that smoking, to use their own humdrum idiom, 'is a matter of personal responsibility', and that the general taxpayer is having to foot an enormous health bill for the bad habit of these free thinking individuals. Matt Robson courageously, and it turns out naively, proposed conjugal visits for prison inmates amongst a number of humane prison reform proposals. Disappointingly, our own Justice Minister and the PSA came out against any further discussion of the issue. Internationally, the Northern Ireland peace process moved along due to the IRA opening their weapons stores up to inspection. Sierra Leone is still cutting itself to pieces, while in an attempt to break the monotony of countless African civil wars, the leaders of Ethiopia and Eritrea are having a proper cross-border war while their people starve through a famine.
Web site of the Week: http://www.fijilive.com
Well, go figure.
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