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Maxim Real Issues: No. 174,

Maxim Real Issues: No. 174, 15 SEPTEMBER 2005

The Ombudsman steps in

MMP and the politics of group identity

Make sense of the polls at nzvotes.org

Weigh up the options

For further thought

Essay competition closes next week

The Ombudsman steps in

The Ombudsman's insistence that Labour must release the Treasury costings of its student loan policy should cause the electorate to rest a little easier. Whatever the economic or political implications of the policy turn out to be, at least we know democracy still works in New Zealand. It depends on good information being available to all citizens.

Where information has not been made public and the Ombudsman thinks it should not have been withheld, he may recommend it be released. Generally an Ombudsman's ruling becomes binding on the 21st day after it has been made, unless there has been an Order in Council brought by a decision against it.

It is very significant, that in this case, the Ombudsman required that information on the costing of the loan and debt issue be provided by the government on the same day. He obviously thought it critical. The moral authority of the office worked alongside its legal power - the very stuff of a functional democracy. While the significance of the process itself will of course, be overshadowed by the political ramifications, that due process occurred without bias or interference, should cause all citizens to be grateful.

MMP and the politics of group identity

Propaganda from political parties and interest groups in the lead-up to an election is nothing new. But are we seeing an increased amount and intensity in the MMP environment? In a free society, all citizens are free to express their views in the public square. However, the claims and counter-claims we have seen over the past few weeks from various groups are very significant.

The MMP system, which promotes representation of different groups, is working together with the ideology of multiculturalism (and even human rights legislation), to move us towards the protection of marginalised groups, instead of legal protection for all. Identity politics is becoming increasingly intrusive. This tends to create a divisiveness whereby one group plays itself off against another, which runs counter to the doctrine of inclusion.

There is an irony here. The Government's ideology of inclusion is a consequence of the neo-Marxist notion of hegemony (competing power amongst groups). But this doctrine, which attempts to reduce friction, actually makes things worse by giving legal credibility to groups, in its attempt to make them equal. In other words, inclusion is brought about by legally identifying niche groups and then attempting to empower them politically.

The consequence is serious, especially under MMP. The law tends to become an exercise in the protection of groups that the government thinks are marginalised rather than the just protection of individual citizens from one another and the power of the state.

Make sense of the polls at nzvotes.org

Not sure how to make sense of the volatile poles? Check out http://www.nzvotes.org which now features a rolling poll for the past few months and provides a general overview of where parties are polling.

Weigh up the options

Promises of a brighter future abound at election time, and dirty laundry is aired on national television. Certainly the future is important, and policy as the stepping stone to that future must be scrutinised, but the past must not be forgotten. A party's voting record on conscience issues is worth reflecting on, particularly when compared with their pledges for the future. To compare parties voting records on major conscience issues of the past term of Parliament, and view how you would have voted matched with how MP's voted, visit; http://www.maxim.org.nz/conscience

If you are still not sure who to vote for, consider the five following points: the general principles the party stands for, their specific policies on important areas, possible coalition partners, the quality, experience and integrity of candidates, and whether a party is likely to cross the required threshold and be in Parliament.

If you haven't enrolled to vote yet, you still have one day to do so! Friday is the last day to enroll - you can either log on to http://www.elections.org.nz, call 0800 36 76 56 or visit your local Post Shop. Whichever way you vote on Saturday, make sure you are informed.

For further thought

What is the connection between the Police's lack of confidence in their statistics and the Ministry of Education's values curriculum? To read an article by Maxim Institute director Bruce Logan published in the Northland Age last week, visit; http://www.maxim.org.nz/main_pages/news_page/M050908.php

Will student loan policy influence your vote this Saturday? To consider how civil society could help solve the debt problem, read an article on by Roshan Allpress, Maxim Institute Centre for Tomorrow's Leaders development Manager, at: http://www.maxim.org.nz/evidence/evidence05_spring_allpress.html or download it as a PDF: http://www.maxim.org.nz/evidence/evidence05_spring_allpress.pdf (0.2 MB)

Essay competition closes next week

The Centre for Tomorrow's Leaders' tertiary students' essay competition closes next Friday, 23 September 2005. First prize is $2000, second prize is $1000 and third prize is $500 for discussing the question: What role, if any, does religion (both personal and institutional) have in the political sphere of a society?

Further details available at: http://www.maxim.org.nz/essay

THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK - Laurence J Peter (1919 - 1990)

Democracy is a process by which the people are free to choose the man who will get the blame.

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