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Maxim Institute - real issues - No 220

Maxim Institute - real issues - No 220 31 August 2006

www.maxim.org.nz

WHAT MAKES A HAPPY LIFE?
WHOSE JOB IS IT?
WHAT'S AN MP, MORE OR LESS?

IN THE NEWS: STUDY SHOWS MIXED ATTITUDES TO CHILD CARE OPTIONS POLICE ACT UP FOR REVIEW A NEW WEBSITE FOR PARLIAMENT ESSAY COMPETITION CLOSES IN TWO WEEKS

WHAT MAKES A HAPPY LIFE?

A new report from the Families Commission measures New Zealanders' life satisfaction, but what makes for a happy life?

The report, New Zealanders' Satisfaction with Family Relationships and Parenting, covered a range of issues to do with relationships, including asking people what they liked about being 'partnered' or single, what they disliked, and how satisfied they were with their lives. Older people, those on higher incomes, and those with stronger relationships had higher levels of "life satisfaction."

The report hints an answer to the age-old question: "What makes a good life?" Aristotle thought that life satisfaction came from pursuing virtue as an end. The report finds that this view is not entirely extinct when it comes to relationships. Virtue is, in essence, laying down one's own interests for another; a sacrifice of self and selfishness in the service of a higher cause.

Respondents were asked what qualities they valued in a relationship and the report finds that such virtue is highly valued by many. Loyalty is number one on the list. Fidelity, and confidence in a shared future, also make a significant appearance. Even having children appears, doggedly hanging in there. Self-sacrificing virtue is the foundation of family life, and it is pleasing that things like loyalty and fidelity continue to be important to many.

However, the report also finds that New Zealanders value 'being able to be myself', 'being in love, and having someone love me' and 'having our own ideas and interests'. A fulfilling relationship is a wonderful thing, but it is sustained by sacrificial love and a willingness to treat someone as an end in themselves, rather than a means to self-fulfillment. This willingness, expressed supremely in the commitment of marriage, is more than just self-centred; it recognises a wider good.

For more information about the report, please visit:

www.familiescommission.govt.nz http://www.familiescommission.govt.nz/media/20060829.php

WHOSE JOB IS IT?

The British Labour Party is currently drawing up plans to encourage work-life balance and will announce a new policy package shortly before their conference in September. "Mothers in the workforce" is becoming a hot topic as subsidies for child care increase and more businesses offer flexible working hours. Labour's new policy looks set to take this to a whole new level, conferring on British citizens the "right" to work part-time.

Work-life balance is important to most people, but the extent to which government should seek to engineer people's choices through things like child care subsidies is contestable. This latest move by the British Labour Party will go one step further, forcing businesses to accommodate working arrangements desired by parents, regardless of their own preferences. As with the proposed flexible working hours legislation currently being considered in New Zealand, there is concern that forcing an employer's hand may actually worsen the interests of working parents, as businesses may be less likely to hire women in their child-bearing years or men with children.

While we might all agree that, where possible, it is good for employers to be flexible about the hours a parent works; it is not the government's job to enforce this through legislation. As work-life balance becomes more important, it is likely that the demand for these kinds of arrangements will increase. It is in an employer's best interests to accommodate the needs of their workers, but they should be free to do so without undue interference from the state.

WHAT'S AN MP, MORE OR LESS?

How many MPs is too many? Jonathan Boston, a professor of public policy at Victoria University, said last week that New Zealand has an "absolute minimum" number of MPs. He was presenting an oral submission to the Justice and Electoral Select Committee on the Electoral (Reduction in the Number of MPs) Amendment Bill, sponsored by New Zealand First MP Barbara Stewart. If passed, the Bill would reduce the number of MPs in Parliament from 120 to 100.

Among the reasons given by those who want to reduce the number of MPs are that we have far too many of them for the size of our population, and that they cost us too much money. Scenes of the Speaker constantly crying "Order!" make many of us think that Parliament would be much more productive and orderly if there were fewer MPs to make noise and keep under control.

But the fact of the matter is that having fewer MPs may actually harm the degree of scrutiny which our MPs can give legislation, like the Bill itself. This is because if we reduce the number of MPs, the remaining ones will have to do more work; which means serving on more select committees or inquiries. In the case of constituent MPs, it also means that they would have less time to listen to and help the people of their community. In fact, if the number of MPs dropped to 100, New Zealanders would have fewer MPs per person than at any time since the 1850s. Under MMP, it would also be harder to make sure each party gets the right number of seats according to the number of party votes it wins at the election.

While dropping the number of MPs could possibly restore a measure of trust and confidence in Parliament in the short-term, in the long-term, it might make Parliament less rigorous and less responsive, but no better behaved.

IN THE NEWS

STUDY SHOWS MIXED ATTITUDES TO CHILD CARE OPTIONS

Last week Massey University highlighted a survey showing New Zealanders have mixed views on work and motherhood. According to the study, 40 percent of New Zealanders believe pre-school children suffer if their mother works full-time, and the same number think that family life is 'adversely affected' when a woman has a part-time job. Only 2 percent approved of women working full-time with children under school age. However, 83 percent of respondents approved of women working full-time before they had children, and even then, 50 percent believed a working mother can establish a relationship that is as close and supportive as a mother who does not work.

For more information about the study, please visit:

masseynews.massey.ac.nz http://masseynews.massey.ac.nz/2006/Massey_News/issue-15/stories/12-15-06.html

POLICE ACT UP FOR REVIEW

The Police Act 1958 is currently being reviewed. This month the Police Act Review Team released its second in a series of papers covering the key issues that need to be considered in any new legislation. The latest paper covers issues such as the legal status of New Zealand Police, the appointment of Police and different reporting relationships that exist within the Police structure.

To read the latest issues paper, please visit:

www.policeact.govt.nz
http://www.policeact.govt.nz/issues-paper-2-governance.html

To visit a website devoted to the review, please visit:

http://www.policeact.govt.nz/

A NEW WEBSITE FOR PARLIAMENT

Parliament's new website went live this week, with a host of new features. You can see which Bills are coming up, read petitions and select committee reports, and access expanded biographies of MPs. Hansard is easier to find, as are questions for oral and written answer. The site also has video and audio coverage of the House of Representatives.

To view the website, visit:

www.parliament.nz

ESSAY COMPETITION CLOSES IN TWO WEEKS

There is just over two weeks remaining to submit your entry for Maxim Institute's 2006 essay competition for tertiary students, which asks: "What is social justice and what would a socially just society look like?"

For more information about the competition which closes on 15 September, please visit:

www.maxim.org.nz

TALKING POINT

"We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit." Aristotle (384 BC - 322 BC)

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