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Maxim Institute - real issues - No 229

Maxim Institute - real issues - No 229

www.maxim.org.nz

A VISION FOR CHILDREN WITHOUT PARENTS?
CONFRONTING CLIMATE CHANGE
WHO'S ADVANCING YOUR ASPIRATIONS?

IN THE NEWS: THE US GEARS UP FOR MID-TERMS ELECTIONS MAXIM INSTITUTE'S ESSAY COMPETITION WINNER ANNOUNCED FOSTER CARE AWARENESS WEEK

A VISION FOR CHILDREN WITHOUT PARENTS?

Commissioner for Children, Dr Cindy Kiro, released her vision for New Zealand children last Thursday, along with details of her proposal to monitor all Kiwi children from birth. Many of her objectives are laudable; we all want our children safe, nurtured and cared for. But it appears her vision has little or no room for parents; in fact, 'parents' don't even get a mention.

The Commissioner states that: "ensuring children are safe and nurtured, have the resources to develop to their full potential, and have their views considered in matters that affect them is a fundamental responsibility of governments and communities." The omission of families from this statement is startling and dangerous. Ultimately, placing such a "fundamental responsibility" at the feet of government gives a simple mandate for totalitarianism; for without unfettered power, it is not possible for a government to fulfil this obligation. Everything becomes its business, even parenting.

The proposal disastrously conflates government and community. It is right that the government protect our safety, but Dr Kiro would also entrust it with nurture, with ensuring adequate income and with advocacy for the best interests of children. These have all traditionally been the treasured preserve of parents.

Indeed, parents are demoted to "caregivers" and rate minimal mention. This is more than just a change of language. It represents a fundamental shift in who we regard as responsible for children; parents or the government.

Dr Kiro's vision is of government as an auxiliary parent to every family, there to assist in lifestyle transitions, and to step-in, not simply when safety is at risk, but to promote nurture and monitor parents. While this might appear benign, and even help families in certain situations, the mandate it gives to government is almost limitless in its scope.

To read the Commissioner's vision and proposal, please visit:

www.occ.org.nz

CONFRONTING CLIMATE CHANGE

This week a report on climate change by British economist, Sir Nicholas Stern, has proved to be something of a tipping point. While there is still not complete agreement among scientists on whether global warming is linked to carbon emissions, the response to this report (commissioned by the British Prime Minister Tony Blair) shows that political will is shifting.

Even though the report acknowledges that, "No-one can predict the consequences of climate change with complete certainty", the mere possibility of such terrible consequences as widespread famines, droughts and floods, is seen as sufficient to warrant acting now.

The report wisely points out the importance of using the private sector to develop more environmentally sound technologies, recognising that: "The private sector is the major driver of innovation and the diffusion of technologies around the world." As we come to understand what is going on, and the pressures to act grow stronger, it is likely that we will have to face the environmental cost of what we produce and consume; either in pricing, or by external charges to compensate for the environmental impact.

As the environmental cost of energy use and consumption is factored into the economy, public demand should increase for more environmentally efficient products and services. Ultimately this public demand is the best way to induce companies to put more resources into developing products with lower carbon emissions.

The challenge of climate change, regardless of what is causing it, will be with us for a long time to come. This report does what we seldom do. It looks to the future and asks the important question; what can we do now that will help pass a sustainable future on to the next generation?

To read the Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change, please visit:

www.hm-treasury.gov.uk

WHO'S ADVANCING YOUR ASPIRATIONS?

Labour faithful attended the Party conference on the weekend and heard rousing speeches from the Prime Minister and her deputy. Points highlighted by the media included disparaging remarks about political opponents, a promise to fight climate change, a party political broadcast under the rubric of "New Zealand values" and promises of yet more government intervention in the guise of partnership, help and even 'nurture'.

After outlining his priorities for the remainder of the term, Dr Michael Cullen proceeded to share what lies beneath them all: "What connects all these threads are two things. The first is that all involve a central role for government as organiser or funder or facilitator. All demand large amounts of tax dollars either by way of expenditure or foregone revenue."

He continued, "We must remain and be seen to be concerned with those on low and middle incomes. During this century they will need the protecting and nurturing power of the state to care for their interests and advance their aspirations just as much as in the last century." The failure to acknowledge that people and communities should have the impetus and resources to advance their own aspirations is a gaping and tragic one.

While government is limited in its scope, it can also play an inspirational role for the rest of us. Unfortunately, rather than encouraging New Zealanders to take responsibility, to work for social justice and to care for the interests of those around them, the priorities outlined feed on people's willingness to ask, what can the government do for me?

To read Dr Cullen's speech, please visit:

www.beehive.govt.nz

IN THE NEWS

THE US GEARS UP FOR MID-TERMS ELECTIONS

The United States is in the grip of election fever this week, as the Republican Party fights to retain control of the House and Senate. Democrats have been buoyed by a number of issues; the continuing struggle in Iraq, ethical scandals involving Republicans and the anger of President Bush's conservative base at his performance on a number of issues. These include elaborate government spending, illegal immigration, and hot-button social issues such as 'gay marriage'. Republicans have highlighted the Democrats' perceived weakness on terrorism and national security. As the campaign enters its final week, both sides will be pulling hard for a win.

MAXIM INSTITUTE'S ESSAY COMPETITION WINNER ANNOUNCED

Maxim Institute is please to announce James Tremlett as the winner of the 2006 essay competition, which asked, "What is social justice and what would a socially just New Zealand look like?" James is currently completing a BA/BSc at the University of Auckland.

To read his essay, A Question of Justice? please visit:

www.maxim.org.nz

FOSTER CARE AWARENESS WEEK

This week is foster care awareness week. The New Zealand Family and Foster Care Federation is raising awareness about the importance of foster parents and the important role they play in giving a hand to at-risk young people.

To read more, please visit:

www.cyf.govt.nz

TALKING POINT

"A government is like fire, a handy servant, but a dangerous master." George Washington (1732-1799)

ENDS

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