Gordon Campbell | Parliament TV | Parliament Today | News Video | Crime | Employers | Housing | Immigration | Legal | Local Govt. | Maori | Welfare | Unions | Youth | Search

 

Dunne Speaks: Irony, Hypocrisy, and Good Policy

Dunne Speaks: Irony, Hypocrisy, and Good Policy


Politics often has an irony about it, and is frequently accompanied by a good dose of hypocrisy, interspersed with occasional moments of sanity and sound decisions. All these elements were on display as Parliament resumed this week.

The first action the House of Representatives took after its return was to introduce legislation to effectively convert itself into a House of Party Delegates, where the views of individual MPs count for virtually nothing, and the Party becomes all-dominating. They did this through the majority supporting legislation to prevent MPs leaving the parties they were elected for, shortly after they paid fulsome tribute to the memory and achievements of an early party-hopper, former Deputy Prime Minister Jim Anderton, who died over the holiday period, sadly.

The argument against such essentially anti-democratic legislation was made cogently a few years ago by a prominent MP who said, "Members of Parliament should have to be free to follow their consciences. They were elected to represent their constituents, not swear a blind allegiance to a political party." That MP was acknowledging the long-standing principle of our type of parliamentary democracy first enunciated almost 250 years by the famous Irish philosopher/politician Edmund Burke, who said, "Your representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgement; and he betrays instead of serving you if he sacrifices it to your opinion." Both statements recognise that ultimately Members of Parliament are accountable to the people who elect them, ahead of the parties or factions that choose them as candidates. If electors are dissatisfied with their representative's subsequent performance, they can vote for someone else at the next election.

How ironic, then, that New Zealand's so-called "waka-jumping" legislation - the very antithesis of these two noble statements - should have been promoted by one of those quoted above. Not Edmund Burke, obviously, but our very own Deputy Prime Minister! Lofty appeals to letting MPs follow their consciences are clearly far less important than blind allegiance to a political party when New Zealand First is in power. While Labour agreed to this demand in the desperation to do a coalition deal (after all, Labour had previously introduced similar legislation after 1999, but had been happy to let it die unlamented in 2005 and had not raised the issue since), the real disappointment are the Greens, long-time principled opponents of such draconianism, but now acquiescing to give the Government its majority on the Bill.

The irony turned to hypocrisy the following day over a Member's Bill on access to cannabis for medicinal purposes. Suddenly, the conscience and judgement of individual MPs became paramount with every Party allowing its MPs a "conscience" vote on the issue, even if National and New Zealand First then made it pretty clear they expected most, if not all, their MPs to use their conscience vote to support their respective leaders' opposition to the Bill.

The one bright spot was the introduction of the Government's legislation to set measurable targets for the reduction of child poverty (although I do wish the Prime Minister would pronounce the word with a "t", and not the "d" she persistently uses). The legislation, not dissimilar to legislation introduced by Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron in Britain a few years ago, is a welcome practical step to set goals, measure, and report on, performance, and then if need be, reassess those goals and the Budget resources allocated to achieve them. It is a pity, though, that such an important issue - which both the Labour and National leaders committed to in last year's election campaign - now risks becoming mired in petty politicking over the future of National's Better Public Services targets, and the nature of the briefing the Government offered on its proposals.

The Better Public Service targets were a positive step towards more focused and accountable government, and the current Government's laudable objective on child poverty could easily have fitted within that framework, so it is a little petty to now be talking about dumping the BPS targets altogether. At the same time, National seems to have been remarkably slow to respond to the Government's briefing offer late last year. Given that this legislation was a long, clearly signalled part of Labour's 100 day programme, National has no real grounds for complaint that Labour moved ahead without waiting for it to respond. National may have the numbers in the select committees and be the largest party in the House, but if it wants to have influence, it needs to take up Labour's offers when they come, not wait around to see what might happen.

Irony, hypocrisy, and good legislation - and the 2018 Session of Parliament is not yet a week old. At this rate, it is going to be a mighty year.


ends

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
Parliament Headlines | Politics Headlines | Regional Headlines

Gordon Campbell: On The Hong Kong Protest Movement

Nearly ten weeks after the huge Hong Kong protests began, managing to still get 1.7 million people onto the streets in the rain is a testament to how strong the pro-democracy movement has become...

The pro-democracy protests enjoy huge support among Hong Kong’s youth, partly because the democratic systems currently at risk have only a limited time span. More>>

ALSO:

 
 

Welfare: More Measures To Help Those Facing Homelessness

Ministers have announced $54 million in Government funding for initiatives which will support at-risk individuals and whānau to stay in their existing tenancies. The funding will also provide additional wrap around services. More>>

ALSO:


Corrections: New Strategy On Māori Reoffending And imprisonment

Authentic co-design with Māori, incorporating a Te Ao Māori worldview, and greater connectedness with whānau are key elements of Hōkai Rangi, Corrections’ new departmental strategy designed to address the long-term challenge of Māori reoffending and imprisonment. More>>

ALSO:

Pacific Island Forum: Australia v Everyone Else On Climate Action

Traditionally, communiques capture the consensus reached at the meeting. In this case, the division on display between Australia and the Pacific meant the only commitment is to commission yet another report into what action needs to be taken. More>>

ALSO:

Unscoped Or Missed Damage: Resolution For Canterbury Owners Of On-Sold Homes

People with over-cap on-sold* properties in Canterbury can now apply for a Government payment so they can get on and repair their homes. More>>

ALSO:

Hamilton-Auckland: First Urban Growth Partnership Signed

New Zealand’s first urban growth partnership between the Government, local councils and mana whenua was signed at a meeting of mayors, chairs and ministers in Hampton Downs today. More>>

ALSO:

Vote On Action Next Week: Secondary Principals Walk From Negotiations

“Unfortunately we consider there is no further value in continuing negotiations at this point. The government has not been able to table an offer that will be acceptable to our members.” More>>

Patrol Car Stolen, Glocks Taken: Manhunt In Gore

The driver rammed the patrol car before fleeing on foot with Police chasing, also on foot. The man has then circled back around, stolen the patrol vehicle, which had the keys left in it, and rammed another Police car... Two Police-issued Glock pistols were stolen. More>>

ALSO:

 
 
 
 
 

LATEST HEADLINES

  • PARLIAMENT
  • POLITICS
  • REGIONAL
 
 

InfoPages News Channels