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Maxim Institute real issues 21 July 2005

Maxim Institute real issues. this week: No. 166, 21 JULY 2005

Contents: --------- * Flagging interest in a republic

- Know what you are voting for

- Political Forum road show underway

- Marriage Bill vote next week


Flagging interest in a republic

Interest in replacing the monarchy with a republic appears to be waning. A Fairfax New Zealand-AC Nielson poll last week surveyed 1055 people nationwide with the question, "Do you think that New Zealand should become a republic?". 27 percent of people surveyed said "yes" and 63 percent said "no", (10 percent "don't know").

A May 2004 poll showed 41 percent favoured a republic, while 50 percent wanted to retain the monarchy. Growing support for the status quo may be connected to the recent London bombings. The Queen has been visiting survivors in hospital, while Prince William made a hit with the New Zealand public on his recent high-profile tour.

The results coincided with news that Telecom and NZ Post, have withdrawn backing for a plan to mail a petition on changing the New Zealand flag to 1.4 million households. Telecom spokesman John Goultier admitted the company's support "flowed on" from chief executive Theresa Gattung's endorsement, while NZ Post's Ian Long said his company only become involved at the request of Telecom, one of its largest clients.

These related issues reveal important dynamics about the nature of social change. There is a big difference between groundswell evolution over a long period and intense lobbying to trump up demand for immediate change. The former gradually materialises among citizens, but the latter is driven by political agendas.

The Prime Minister has adopted a cautious approach on both matters, but has consistently said change is inevitable. Like all political leaders, however, if she sensed gain in championing either cause, we could expect casualness to give way to direct action. In the last term Labour has claimed a change in social attitudes as a basis for several new laws. This is a clever tactic because it implicitly shifts responsibility from the party onto the wider electorate, claiming change is "in line with modern trends".

Know what you are voting for

Helen Clark has indicated that the Labour Party will again campaign using pledge cards. The idea is borrowed from the New Labour Party in the UK election of 1997. The cards have since made their way to New Zealand and have been a successful tool for Labour here as well.

The pledge cards are a useful reminder that a party is accountable for how well they fulfil their manifesto promises. They raise the question: what kind of mandate does a government have?

An elected government is understood to have a mandate and is authorised to pursue the enactment of the policies on which it campaigned. Pledge cards can help identify some policies, although they have limitations. Only broad statements are possible and these will invariably lack detail. Voters need to peruse policies in more detail to see where a party is coming from.

Policy promises made at election time are likely to set the law making agenda for the next term of Parliament and beyond. Moreover, in an MMP environment, the policies of the governing party are never enacted in their pure form, as they are tempered by their coalition partner. This shows how important it is to be informed at election time.

Political Forum road show underway

Beyond pledge cards, New Zealanders are hearing party policies from the MPs themselves, as interest in the election heats up around the country. Maxim Institute is providing structured opportunities for this, in a series of Political Forums being held around the country, at the invitation of local organisers keen to inform voters in their town.

More than 600 people have attended Forums in Masterton, Nelson and Taranaki. Each Forum begins with a presentation on understanding MMP. MPs from all main parties are invited to attend and speak on the distinctiveness of their party and in particular, how their principles apply in policy areas such as education, tax and spending. There is also an opportunity for the audience to put forward their questions to MPs.

Forums have been arranged for the following centres (with another 15 towns and cities yet to be finalised):

Invercargill Friday, 22 July Alexandra Monday, 25 July Helensville Friday, 29 July (Organised by Voice Rodney) Upper Hutt Tuesday, 2 August (Organised by PROMOTE) Dunedin Friday, 5 August East Auckland Monday, 8 August Tauranga Thursday, 11 August Hastings Saturday, 13 August

To find out more about an event near you or to organise a Political Forum in your region, visit: http://www.maxim.org.nz/events

Marriage Bill vote next week

The Marriage (Gender Clarification) Amendment Bill which makes clear in legislation what the Courts have always understood about marriage, (that it is between one man and one woman), is likely to be voted on for the first time next Wednesday 27 July. For information about the Bill, visit: http://www.maxim.org.nz/main_pages/current_page/marriage_amendment_bill.ht ml

THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK - Molière - It is not only what we do, but also what we do not do, for which we are accountable.

ENDS

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