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Maxim Institute - real issues - No. 30

Maxim Institute - real issues - No. 30

Maxim Institute

real issues.
============
this week: No. Thirty 22 AUGUST 2002

Contents:
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'RECKLESS PARENTING' - more law or Civil Society?
LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION - sitting and standing
CLASH OF THE TITANS - economic heavyweights square off
WHAT IS CIVIL SOCIETY? - No. 3 in the series: The Voluntary Sector
SECONDARY TEACHERS' PAY DISPUTE RESOLVED - but for how long?
ZIMBABWE - a case study in the erosion of civil order
EVIDENCE - WINTER EDITION OUT NOW
THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK - Judge Mick Brown

'RECKLESS PARENTING' - more law or Civil Society?

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- Four ten-year olds found home alone with blue movies and cannabis, prompted the Commissioner for Children to call for a new 'reckless parenting' law. This reaction raises the question of who we look to solve societal problems. There are two stark choices; more law and government, or promoting and strengthening the family unit which is the central institution of Civil Society.

Of course parents and individuals should be more responsible. For those genuinely negligent parents it is already illegal to leave kids under 14 at home alone. Either we have a 'policeman in every head or one on every street corner', but every time we bypass the chance to help the 'policeman in the head' we further erode self-government.

Consider instead the positive campaign by the Tindall Foundation encouraging parents that "the most important thing you can spend on your kids is time". Every year around the country charitable organisations inspire tens of thousands of parents with similar messages. They don't threaten them with criminal charges. They encourage them. They help them with resources. And most of all they give them a dream. While the Commissioner for the Children's concerns are admirable, rather than using law as a blunt instrument to change behaviour he should perhaps spend his time promoting individual and community responsibility, and courses that give parents skills. The better way is to reinvigorate Civil Society and reach for the parenting books rather than the law books.

To see a Holmes interview with Maxim's Greg Fleming on this issue go to: http://www.maxim.org.nz/video.html

LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION - sitting and standing

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- It's not where they sit, it's where they stand that matters. Bill English is tenaciously defending National's right to occupy the front benches (the right of the Opposition under First Past the Post), but Winston Peters is claiming that the game has changed under MMP and that seats should be allocated proportionately. Former Speaker, Hon Doug Kidd has suggested calling in the builders to help sort it out.

The debate over seating positions and the media attention actually misses the point. The important thing in the next session of parliament is that conservative opposition parties clarify what they stand for and offer a critique of Labour policy based on coherent principles. The New Zealand electorate is historically conservative however the first principles of conservatism need to be reclaimed and articulated in an attractive manner. Conservatives understand those things a culture needs to preserve, adapt and discard, and they move cautiously. A Liberal approach - of the sort we have seen in recent years - has been quick to discard and implement change which is seen as 'progressive'. People will not be so concerned where the opposition MPs sit, but they will be scrutinising what they say and be looking for clear principles and alternatives.

CLASH OF THE TITANS - economic heavyweights square off

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- Michael Cullen wants growth but not at the cost of exacerbating inequalities. Don Brash claims if we don't have growth, then we will have inequality and growth is the best means to deal with it. Cullen thinks this is harking back to the bad old days of the 1990s. Same goal; different means. So who, if either, is right?

Were the economic policies of the 1990s really a failure anyway? New Zealand achieved 4 percent growth on average from 1991 - 1996. Employment growth during this period was the fastest in the OECD. Throughout the decade average annual growth was 3 percent. We are still benefiting from those policies today and in fact, economic policy under Labour has changed very little. Some of the policies such as the electricity reforms for example, were however a disaster. Perhaps National needs to acknowledge what it got wrong and move on.

A fixation with equality will cause the government to run into trouble in the future. No country has sustained 4 percent annual growth (which is the least we need) when government takes a third share of the economy. If New Zealand is to get back to the top half of the OECD, we must cut the size of government expenditure. But what does economic growth do? It provides more jobs, better health services, and more choice in education. Well that's what it should do, government permitting.

WHAT IS CIVIL SOCIETY? - No. 3 in the series: The Voluntary Sector

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- We have been talking about the importance of 'mediating institutions'; those strategically positioned between the state and the individual. These are where we find our family and community relationships and identity. Now we consider the role of the voluntary sector.

A strong voluntary sector is a sign of an active, viable Civil Society. A weak society, by contrast, is seen as a sign of alienation, passivity and potential unrest. Former Minister for the Community and Voluntary Sector, Steve Maharey, says there are 22 500 incorporated societies, 9 000 charitable trusts and an estimated 50 000-60 000 informal community organisations - volunteering is crucial to our society.

Statistics New Zealand says that New Zealanders 15 years and over spent 536 million hours on unpaid work outside the home in 1999. The estimated value of this work was just over $5 billion, equivalent to five percent of gross domestic product (GDP).

Unfortunately, the volunteer sector has begun to suffer a serious decline. For example, Jaycees, once the largest service organisation, is reduced to 16 clubs throughout the country. Groups from sports clubs to meals on wheels are struggling to find committed helpers. The Government cannot afford to pick up the lost services, but could encourage greater community support through such means as improving tax rebates for donations.

For an article on this topic by Maxim writer John McNeil, click on: www.maxim.org.nz/ri/volunteer.html

SECONDARY TEACHERS' PAY DISPUTE RESOLVED - but for how long?

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- The independent arbitration panel recommendation of at least a 6.5 percent increase in base secondary teachers' pay rates has been accepted by the Government and will likely be endorsed by PPTA members. After sixteen months the outcome will please parents, students and most teachers - but not all. Pay parity with primary and kindergarten teachers remains a sticking point.

The panel has recommended there be differentiation and higher pay for secondary teachers with University degrees and teaching qualifications. This will help address secondary recruitment and retention problems. However it doesn't acknowledge that some primary teachers do an outstanding job even without comparable qualifications, so the debate looks set to continue.

The issue is equality. Teachers might have the same qualifications but that doesn't mean results will be the same. Neither does the resolution of this particular dispute mean future pay claims will be any less acrimonious. Structural problems in our education system remain and greater flexibility should exist to allow principals to pay teachers what they are worth. One step forward would be to introduce a decentralised pay structure and allow Board's of Trustees to pay the best teachers more.

ZIMBABWE - a case study in the erosion of civil order

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- Robert Mugabe's determination to rout white farmers shows no sign of letting up. Commonwealth nations (including New Zealand) continue to protest but short of armed intervention they are powerless to stop the evictions and bloodshed. The problems were predictable when Mugabe 'won' the election earlier this year. Observers were unable to guarantee a free and fair election, and amidst much intimidation and violence, Mugabe clung to power.

It is worth noting that after official independence in 1980 when trade barriers were lifted, there was an upsurge in manufacturing, agricultural and mineral production. Successful agricultural policies produced massive grain surpluses in drought-free years, even enabling Zimbabwe to supply food aid to its less fortunate neighbours. But that has all changed as once again the nation is in the throes of a civil war between Mugabe the champion of 'landless blacks' and the 'white farmers'. Dreadful atrocities are occurring every day.

This is what happens when the rule of law gives way to tyranny and intimidation. The police and army merge into one and legal and civil order collapse. One group, or in this case, the will of one individual, constitutes what is lawful. The lesson is simple: effective and stable democracy must cherish its freedoms and always preserve the mechanisms which allow their expression. When this doesn't happen, the conditions are rife for the seeds of dictatorship to flourish.

EVIDENCE - WINTER EDITION OUT NOW

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- The second edition of Maxim's quarterly Evidence journal that takes an in-depth look at New Zealand culture and policy has been released this week. If you are concerned about the breakdown of the family, decline in personal and corporate values and the erosion of our nation's cultural foundations Evidence is a must read. Annual subscription is a suggested $30 donation. Copies are available at bookstores around the country, emailing mail@maxim.org.nz or by calling Maxim's Auckland office (09) 627 3261.

THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK - Judge Mick Brown

- We desperately need in this country to provide the inspiration and leadership to aspire to be a decent society.... in the end our future as a nation will not, cannot and should not, depend upon [Government] structure, but rather on the resolve and character of each one of us as a citizen.

Ministerial Review of the CYF Department, 2001

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Real Issues is a weekly email newsletter from the Maxim Institute. The focus is current New Zealand events with an attempt to provide insight into critical issues beyond what is usually presented in the media. This service is provided free of charge, although a donation to Maxim is appreciated. You are encouraged to forward the newsletter to others who might be interested. Items may be used for other purposes, such as teaching, research or civic action. If items are published elsewhere, Maxim should be acknowledged.


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