Robson-On-Politics 2 August 2006
Can Prussians and refugees from non-democracies become fair dinkum Kiwis?
The Brash family traces its ancestral roots to Prussia.
Can we reasonably expect Prussians, or let’s say cultural refugees from societies that lack freedom and democracy such as Singapore, to adapt to the Kiwi Way Of Life, a life that respects the rule of law, upholds individual liberty and social responsibility, expects religion to be kept out of politics and generally supports a fair go for all?
Right-wing parties will be sure to raise the tempo on this question as they get desperate ahead of losing their 4th consecutive general election in 2008, so progressives should start thinking about the issues sooner than later.
Lessons from across the ditch, Switzerland & Luxembourg
There are some countries in the world where the proportion of their populations born overseas is absolutely tiny (0.1% in Poland, 0.5% in the Slovak Republic and in Mexico). But these are not rich, dynamic, prosperous or particularly democratic, tolerant societies so they don't have much to teach us.
We should look at more prosperous societies than our own for lessons. In Switzerland, for example, over a fifth of residents were born outside of that country while in the richest nation of them all, Luxembourg, 37.3% were born outside of Luxembourg.
Australia's economy completely out-paced New Zealand's in the 1980s and 1990s and in the Big Dry over 23% of people were born outside of Australia.
You can sort of tell it by looking at the family names, for example, of Australian league players: Darren Maroon (Bulls); Mohammed Abbas (Bulls); Ahmed Bajouri (Magpies); Mo Chahal (Bulls); Michael Coorey (Tigers); Ray Daher (Cabramatta); Monah El Ahmad(Cabramatta); Fady Elchab (Bulls); Hazem El-Masri (Bulldogs); Samer El-Masri (Roosters); George Katrib (Bulls); Paul Khoury (Bulldogs); David Lambert (Bulls); Joe Lichaa (Roosters); Anthony Mansour (Bulls); Bilal Najjarin (St George-Illawarra); Charlie Nohra (Bulls); Hassan Saleh (Bulldogs); Nedol Saleh (Magpies); Chris Salem (Bulls); Anthony Semrani (Bulldogs); Jason Stanton (Bulls); Travis Touma (Bulls); Eben Goddard (St.George-Illawarra Dragons).
All proud, red-blooded Aussies with bed-rock Aussie values - young men that carry the pride of hundreds of thousands of Australians on their shoulders every week. These are players from Australia who are Lebanese or whose parents come from Lebanon.
So can Prussians become good Kiwis?
The answer is all around us and it is a resounding Yes! When you examine the Right's "bed rock Kiwi values" what you find are a set of values that are the same universal, human values that are cherished everywhere.
What are the Nats up to? Will it work for them?
"National," which tried unsuccessfully in the 2002 and 2005 elections to sneak to victory on a backlash against the big wedge that National itself worked hard to create between Maori and non-Maori Kiwis, is trying a different track in 2008.
Next time the big, fat wedge they hope to fabricate will be between mainstream Kiwis versus those that they will say somehow don't share those values. Thanks to MMP, the Nat-ACT combo's nasty little campaign won't succeed in doing a Muldoon on us but Progressive Party members want to contribute to the Right's defeat which is why over the past week I've been busy at both policy development and campaign funding meetings.
Progressive will have a good war chest to rally around Left candidates in 2008 and we should also be in a position to have some strong policies education and health - areas that the mainstream media are not able to cover because they are so busy reporting on Mr Brash's views on values, doing up-dates on Mr Hide's weight-loss programme and dancing career as well as the exposes on how our Foreign Minister consistently fails to bow low enough when he meets important American officials and politicians.
Private companies getting fat on tax-payer dollars?
The junior partner in the progressive coalition government is proud of its victories on Kiwibank, Ministry of Economic Development, Four Weeks Annual Leave, NZ Trade & Enterprise, paid parental leave and all the rest of it - but since 1999 there have always been key areas of policy where Labour won't budge.
The 4th Labour Government's Tomorrow's Schools and the de-centralization of health service provision, for example, remain largely in place and one of the roles of progressive people between now and 2008 is to honestly assess how things are going in education and health.
Take the recent decision of the Otago and Southland District Health Boards to privatise their hospital laboratories. Community testing appears to be an extravagant and lucrative cash-cow for the private sector, but hardly a risky business, as DHBs provide the funding to meet the volumes, duplication of resources, and large profits for private businesses that provide the services people require.
The taxpayer funds this important work, so what is the evidence that it is more financially efficient to run things this way rather than through the public health system itself? We should be making decisions based on the evidence of what works best for people and the taxpayer, and not let fashionable ideology get in the way. Progressive policy-making in this area will be led by medical professionals working in our public health system.
ACT vs NZ values
ACT was, according to the media, the only party that refused to support the Parliamentary motion calling for a cease-fire in Lebanon. ACT's position is the U.S./U.K. position.
The position is that in the wake of the abduction of two Israeli soldiers, everything that is being done to the Lebanese people and their infrastructure is correct: The use of cluster bombs. The destruction of ports. The airport. The milk processing company. A major environmental catastrophe at sea. The highways. Private properties. The deaths of 500 or 600 civilians since Israel began the ball rolling.
ACT was also in favour of risking Kiwi lives to invade Iraq, a policy that is every hour of the day having such catastrophic and devastating implications for innocent families in Iraq - but, thanks to this government - no Kiwi soldiers' lives are at risk there.
Basically, the ACT party is opposed to the bed-rock Kiwi values that 99% of us intuitively cherish.