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Maxim Institute - real issues - No 224 28 Sep 2006

Maxim Institute - real issues - No 224 28 Sep 2006




When Is Private Life Public?

The furore of recent weeks over the private lives of politicians continues, along with name-calling and mud-slinging on all sides. You could be forgiven for throwing up your hands and shouting "a plague on both your houses!" There have been a host of contentious issues; private investigators, personal slurs and insults. But the wider question which needs asking is when does the private become legitimately public?

There is a legitimate public interest in the private lives of elected leaders. We are not just voting for a person to do a job, but for a representative; a role model and someone who will carry the name and imprimatur of our country. For that reason, the moral character of our representatives is relevant, especially when it reflects on the quality or otherwise of their judgement. Private cannot always stay private, and neither should it. It is reasonable to expect that a representative will exercise integrity, honesty and good judgement outside the House, as well as in their public capacity, and it is reasonable to expect that we should know enough of their private lives to form an opinion of their moral character. A crook, a swindler, a cheat or a liar in private life, is not magically transformed by promotion into public office.

That said, there is little excuse for muck-raking, character assassination, and the tabloidisation of public life. Digging for dirt, and gleefully throwing it smacks more of the kindergarten than it does of the great forum of the nation. We are all human, with human foibles and frailties. We do stupid things, and we pay for them. The New Zealand public may need to know about a politician's private flaws, but they are also capable of understanding that there is room for redemption, for reparation and amendment. We are people wise enough to know that we are ruled by people, not super-men or holier-than-thou machines. It remains to be seen if our leaders can rise above the muck thrown at them from many quarters and expect more of themselves, each other, and the public to whom they are accountable.

Giving Failing Schools A Hand

The Labour government in the United Kingdom has announced a giant step forward in giving Britain's children access to quality education. The new Education and Inspections Bill grants freedom for schools, parents and communities to work together in the interest of their pupils, to raise educational standards, slash red tape, toughen discipline and achieve better outcomes for all.

The Bill allows failing schools to join with successful ones, using a combined trust. The successful school will provide leadership and knowledge to help the failing school improve its outcomes. They will be able to remove staff that hinder the school's success, and also to appoint new leadership to the governing board. Trusts are not compulsory, but many failing schools that recognise that their students are not succeeding are keen to import new ideas and leadership from those who are successful. Dr. Elizabeth Sidwell, Head teacher of Habadashers Aske Hatcham College who runs such a trust assisting a former failing school, told the Select Committee examining the Bill that having both schools report to the same governing trust meant that, "We have been able to be very quick to change things for the children there. It did not happen before, even though we were working with them."

The Bill also slashes educational bureaucracy, promotes partnerships between schools and local community groups like businesses, and promotes parental involvement and consultation in the running of trust partnerships. Its aim is to devolve as much decision-making as possible to the school level, to the parents, families and the community.

This huge step towards freedom and partnership for schools recognises that centrally located bureaucrats are often not the best people to make decisions on school problems. It also promotes the idea that the strong and successful should be able to help the weak and failing, and that education is not about protecting systems and enshrining rights, but delivering what is best for pupils. The Blair Labour government has put a record amount of money towards education, and is finding that money alone does not raise standards. New Zealand could definitely learn from British Labour's lesson.

To read more about the proposed changes, please visit:

www.dfes.gov.uk (PDF)

A Spotlight On Global Competitiveness

Economies are complicated. A country's prosperity depends on many different and complex factors. The actions of individual businesspeople, shareholders and government policy, all shape the economic climate.

The World Economic Forum (WEF) has just released its report on Global Competitiveness for 2006, setting out some of the factors which make for economic success and analysing the competitiveness of over 120 countries, including New Zealand. It measures and ranks countries on three broad areas: basic requirements (institutions, infrastructure, macro-economy and health and primary education), efficiency enhancers (higher education and training, technological readiness and market efficiency), and innovation (business sophistication, and competitiveness).

New Zealand has slipped one place in the general ranking since 2005, from 22nd to 23rd. We now trail Luxembourg and only just made it ahead of (South) Korea and Estonia. Several of the basic requirements for prosperity are present; New Zealand scored well on the strength of its institutions (8th) and health and primary education (6th). But our infrastructure is ranked 27th, behind the United Arab Emirates and Portugal, and our macro-economy, innovation, technological readiness and higher education rankings all hovered in the twenties. Surprisingly our reputation as a highly innovative nation might not have spread too far beyond our shores; New Zealand ranks 25th for "innovation" compared to other countries.

Wealth creation through innovation and risk-taking is not the government's job; it is what free people do when they trade and develop their resources and property. However, the report shows that there are many things the government can do to make it easier or harder for citizens and businesses to be competitive: fixing infrastructure, raising education standards, and ensuring transparent and swift legal redress, to name a few. The report offers some useful measures we can use to rate and improve our national competitiveness.

To read the Executive Summary of the Global Competitiveness Report 2006-2007, please visit:

www.weforum.org (PDF)

In The News


The primary teachers' union, NZEI, have released their new guidelines for Physical Contact With Children. The guidelines have been described by NZEI as "commonsense" and have been welcomed across the board by both teachers and parents alike.

To read a copy of the new guidelines, please visit:

www.nzei.org.nz (PDF)


The debate over Labour's "pledge card" and election spending still refuses to settle down. New Zealand Herald political editor, Audrey Young, has written a handy factual summary of the issues, covering who did what and when.

To read Q&A: The election spending row, please visit:



The 2002 ban on therapeutic cloning in Australia could be overturned soon, as Liberal Senator, Kay Patterson, has sponsored a private members' bill to allow embryonic stem cell research and therapeutic cloning to help the sick. The Bill is controversial because embryonic stem cell research destroys human embryos, and devalues human life.

To read Sen. Patterson's Bill, please visit:

www.aph.gov.au To read the 2002 speech of Health Minister Tony Abbott on the issue, please visit:



"Families are a source of inspiration and strength, and they provide hope and solace in the face of adversity. Children especially benefit from the bonds of family. During critical times in children's lives, family members encourage them to aim high and achieve their dreams, herald their successes, and promote positive behavior. Through their guidance and support, family members prepare young people for the challenges and opportunities ahead."

President George W Bush, Proclamation for Family Day, 22 September 2006


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