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Maxim Institute - real issues - No. 98

Maxim Institute - real issues - No. 98

this week: No. Ninety-Eight 19 FEBRUARY 2004


* Family agenda gets priority spending

* How should we swear to do our duty?

* Shape the future of your local school * Maxim Forum 2004 - Political Correctness: end of an error?

Family agenda gets priority spending

- Finance Minister Dr Michael Cullen has announced a new family assistance package. Starting in April next year, it will eventually rise to $1 billion per annum which the government views as sustainable, based on strong current accounts. Called 'Future Directions', the package will straighten out anomalies so that working families will always be better off than equivalent families on a benefit. The government claims that as many as 500,000 children could be recipients of the new system. Low income families could benefit by $2000 per child.

While the May budget will provide details, the government has signaled it will include housing assistance and better access to affordable childcare, along with direct income-support and incentives to move people from welfare into work. The current wide range of benefits - from DPB to unemployment - will probably be collapsed into one benefit. An unfortunate side effect of this move is that public policy analysis will be much more difficult.

United Future believes that the Future Directions package owes a lot to its relationship with the government. It also points to the Families Commission as another fruit of its role in government and family focused agenda. Whatever we might think of the Families Commission, it has raised the profile of discussion around the family. And New Zealand certainly lacks the body of family research which exists in other countries - research which the Commission has been mandated to carry out.

Another initiative being advanced by United Future's Gordon Copeland is income splitting for married couples. At present de facto couples have an advantage here compared to single income couples.

With families and marriages under immense pressure both financially and as a foundational social institution it is encouraging that public policy is addressing how they can be better supported.

How should we swear to do our duty?

- Justice Minister Phil Goff wants to change the oaths and affirmations made by public office holders, some state employees and immigrants when they become new citizens. He says it's nearly 50 years since the last full review, and we need to check whether the oaths express the values and beliefs of our national values today, or reflect a sense of independent nationhood.

Mr Goff is worried that the oaths swear allegiance to the Queen rather than to New Zealand. He points out that most other Commonwealth countries - even England - are making similar changes.

Some interesting conundrums are posed by Mr Goff's review. Who will decide what our "national values" are? And what does it actually mean if we pledge loyalty "to New Zealand and the people of New Zealand" (the kind of wording that Mr Goff seems to favour)? Does it mean that we pledge loyalty to the government? What if the government and the people are in serious disagreement over an issue? The abolition of appeals to the Privy Council would be a case in point.

Making an oath once meant that we acknowledged a higher power was witnessing our statement, and stood ready to call us to account. An oath cannot be legitimately broken. That is implicit in an oath to the Crown. So understood, oaths are a necessary component of democratic freedom because they reinforce trust. It would appear that the highest power we believe in now is the government, or an ill-defined national identity. That is not encouraging.

Shape the future of your local school

- One of the most important democratic events in New Zealand will take place on April 2nd. Parents all over the country will vote to elect more than 14,000 parent-representatives to govern each school through the Board of Trustees. As a trustee, you have an opportunity to shape the future of your local school, become more involved in your child's education and leave a legacy for your children.

The Board of Trustees is primarily responsible for providing governance, and overseeing how the school is run. By assisting and supporting the principal, the Board helps define the long term aspirations and strategy of the school. As a member of the Board, you will discuss and vote on all the key decisions affecting the school. You may also be part of a sub-committee to work in more detail on a specific area such as employment of senior staff, curriculum or finances.

Almost anyone can stand for election - you don't need to have a child at the school and it's easy to do. Will you be involved? Nomination forms must be returned to the school by noon on 19 March 2004. You can download a nomination form and find out more at www.maxim.org.nz/ed/board_trustees.html or email nicki.taylor@maxim.org.nz

Maxim Forum 2004 - Political Correctness: end of an error?

- This one day forum in Auckland and Christchurch is not to be missed if you are concerned about the rampant PC agenda and its impact on New Zealand. Promoters of PC seek to control society and culture by engineering 'acceptable' language and thought. An outstanding mix of local and international speakers will explain how PC shapes the battleground of the cultural war. They include: Leighton Smith; Cecilia Lashlie; Bruce Logan; Frank Ellis from Leeds University, England; and Peter Wood, Boston University, USA. The forum will be held in Christchurch, 20 March, and Auckland, 27 March.

For more information and to register online visit: www.maxim.org.nz/forum2004.html

For additional enquires call Mary Davidson tel. 09-627 3261.

THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK - Thomas Jefferson

- "That Government is best which governs the least, because its people discipline themselves."

To subscribe send a blank email to: realissues@maxim.org.nz

Real Issues is a weekly email newsletter from the Maxim Institute. The focus is current New Zealand events with an attempt to provide insight into critical issues beyond what is usually presented in the media. This service is provided free of charge, although a donation to Maxim is appreciated. Items may be used for other purposes, such as teaching, research or civic action. If items are published elsewhere, Maxim should be acknowledged.

Key principles - The Building Blocks of Civil Society http://www.maxim.org.nz/main_pages/about_page/about_keyprinciples.html

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