Gordon Campbell | Parliament TV | Parliament Today | News Video | Crime | Employers | Housing | Immigration | Legal | Local Govt. | Maori | Welfare | Unions | Youth | Search


Maxim Institute - real issues - No. 66

Maxim Institute - real issues - No. 66

Contents: Gravy train undermines confidence Public sector appointments have been in the news lately, and there's more at stake than just big payouts. Supreme Court interference Dumping tradition is something many people could accept, but the implications for common law are more serious. Population does not = Populution A billboard message reveals assumptions about the value of being human.

Gravy train undermines confidence

New Zealand consistently rates as one of the least corrupt countries in the world. It is surprising then, to discover the extent of so-called 'snouts in the trough' - largely unpublicised political appointments to public boards, directorships and committees. In a series of articles this week, political journalist Colin Espiner has revealed some important findings.

The list for 2002 is comprised of mostly ex-MPs and even unsuccessful parliamentary candidates. Ex-cabinet minister David Caygill, for example, received $106,500 for heading an electricity inquiry, and an extra $50,000 as chairman of the ACC; while former Council of Trade Union boss Ken Douglas received $57,346 for three directorships. Labour list candidate Warren Limburg received $45,000 for sitting on the Human Rights Commission. The list goes on - up to 900 such appointments are made each year.

Labour promised to scale-down runaway public sector (quango*) appointments after taking office in 1999, but without much will or effort. None of the beneficiaries of this political patronage are appointed by any open process. Moreover, what we are witnessing is an expansion of bureaucracy, which left unchecked, threatens the effectiveness of, and public confidence in government.

In 1979, constitutional lawyer and MP Geoffrey Palmer said it was time to halt the growth of quangos. 'The aim should be [he said] to eliminate as many as possible and ensure that those which remain are properly accountable to the public through Parliament and work in a way which serves the public interest. The following questions should be kept in mind in any such review:

* why can an ordinary department not do the job? * in the case of tribunals, why can't the adjudication be carried out in the ordinary courts? * in what ways is the quango accountable to parliament and the public? * in the case of each advisory body, does the record show that it has actually contributed anything of value?

'If these questions are rigorously pursued by a parliamentary committee, many quangos could be killed off, others reorganised and limits placed upon the creation of new ones.' (Unbridled Power, pp. 38-39).

Well said. What then, can be done? We must be informed and indignant about what's going on and demand that procedures are opened-up to public scrutiny without patronage. We also do well to remember that ordinary citizens, not politicians, are the gatekeepers of democracy - we have a right to demand answers to the hard questions.

(*quasi-autonomous national governmental organisations)

Supreme Court interference

Much of the debate over a New Zealand Supreme Court and abolishing the right of appeal to the Privy Council has been on what each represents symbolically. But this focus neglects the important foundations of our legal system. Dumping the right of appeal to the Privy Council will weaken the foundations of common law. Common law has a strong historical base and has been carefully refined over centuries. Most importantly, it prevents the law from being 'captured' by fashions, fads or patronage. Removing association with the Privy Council will further isolate New Zealand from the roots of common law.

Attorney-General Margaret Wilson argues that retaining links with the Privy Council will inhibit the independent development of law in Commonwealth countries and can be viewed as interference with a country's power to regulate it own jurisdiction. Increasingly however, New Zealand permits what can be termed 'interference' with a power to regulate its own jurisdiction from the United Nations. Moreover, we are now party to approximately 1,450 bilateral treaties with other countries and 1,080 multilateral treaties. Each treaty has not only rights but binding obligations, and nearly 200 Acts of Parliament - more than a quarter of the total number - are required to implement these obligations. Rt. Hon. Justice Kenneth Keith has observed that this figure shows the 'pervasive effect of international law on our national law'. If the influence of the Privy Council is removed, judges and Parliament will continue to look to the United Nations and international treaties will have even greater impact on our national law and ability to be independent.

Population or populution?

The following text appears on an advertising billboard at a major intersection in Christchurch: 'POPULATION = POPULUTION. The BIGGEST PROBLEM facing our earth is the overpopulating virus called 'mankind'. Be responsible. Have 2 children or less. Pass the message worldwide'.

Aside from the emotive language ('the overpopulating virus'), this is simply untrue. New Zealand's fertility rate has been below replacement level for 20 of the last 23 years due to a variety of factors and trends: the advancing age of first-time mothers, smaller family sizes, the liberalisation of abortion services, and so on. Our population has just reached 4 million - but only because numbers are propped-up by immigration

The billboard suggests that human existence is impure and has no real validity; it's somehow 'unnatural' and irresponsible - just like pollution. It illustrates a general trend which devalues human life and reduces it to an economic unit. Abortion and euthanasia are other examples which tell us that human beings have worth only as long as they are 'useful', or don't interfere with our own plans. Those who oppose this are labelled the enemies of progress. This is a huge paradox in a society which makes the affirmation and protection of human rights its primary boast.


You can tell the ideals of a nation by its advertisements.

© Scoop Media

Parliament Headlines | Politics Headlines | Regional Headlines

Gordon Campbell: on the inquiry into the abuse of children in care

Apparently, PM Jacinda Ardern has chosen to exclude faith-based institutions from the government’s promised inquiry into the abuse of children in state care.

Any role for religious institutions – eg the Catholic Church – would be only to observe and to learn from any revelations that arise from the inquiry’s self-limiting focus on state-run institutions… More


Gordon Campbell: On Jim Anderton
For anyone born after 1975, it is hard to grasp just how important a figure Jim Anderton was, for an entire generation.
During the mid to late 1980s, Anderton was the only significant public figure of resistance to the Labour government’s headlong embrace of Thatcherism...More>>


Gong Time: New Year's Honours List

Jacinda Ardern today congratulated the 179 New Zealanders named on the 2018 New Year’s Honours List.

“Although this list was compiled and completed by the last government, it is a pleasure to welcome in the New Year by recognising exceptional New Zealanders,” Jacinda Ardern said.

“As an Aunty, I love reading books to my nieces, so it’s lovely to congratulate Joy Cowley, who is made a member of the Order of New Zealand today....More
Full list

Roads: National launches bid to save highway projects

The National Party has launched a series of petitions aimed at saving regional highway projects at risk because of the Government’s obsession with Auckland trams…More>>


Medical Cannabis: Bill Introduced to “ease suffering”

Health Minister Dr David Clark says making medicinal cannabis more readily available will help relieve the suffering of people who are dying in pain More>>


Campbell: On The Quest For Zero Net Carbon Emissions
Some would querulously ask, zero net carbon emissions by 2050 – while others would say, why not?


CPAG Report: The Further Fraying Of The Welfare Safety Net

New Zealand’s welfare system has undergone a major transformation during the past three decades. This process has seriously thwarted the original intent of the system, which was to provide a decent standard of living for all New Zealanders in times of need... More>>





Featured InfoPages