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Maxim Institute: Real issues.this week: No. 182,

Maxim Institute

Real issues.this week: No. 182, 10 November 2005


- The first week of a new Parliament

- Local government under the microscope

- The new powerful

The first week of a new Parliament

The first week of a new term of Parliament is always eventful, and this week was no exception. The 48th New Zealand Parliament began on a sad note, with returning and new MPs displaying a rare but sombre unity.

They transcended their differences in what is otherwise, an adversarial environment. They mourned the untimely death of Greens co-leader Rod Donald, remembering his "passion and principles", as well as other former MPs who have recently passed away.

Parliament was opened on the Governor-General's behalf by three Royal Commissioners, including Chief Justice Dame Sian Elias. Maori Party MPs caused a stir when they attempted to swear allegiance to the Treaty of Waitangi as well as the Queen. On Tuesday, the Governor-General Dame Silvia Cartwright formally opened Parliament, delivering the "Speech from the Throne", on behalf of Her Majesty the Queen and prepared by the Labour-led government.

The speech outlined the government's priorities for the next three years and reaffirmed their key election pledges.

The 19 hour "Address in Reply" debate which follows the speech, allows the House to test their confidence in the new government and during which time new MPs give their maiden speeches. Parliament voted to appoint Margaret Wilson as Speaker of the House, Clem Simich (National) as deputy speaker, and Ann Hartley and Ross Robertson (both Labour) as the assistant speakers. MPs debated whether or not the Order Paper should continue over to the new term of Parliament in its existing form.

National argued that New Zealand First should vote against the continuance of the Bills it fought against during the last term of Parliament. They were only successful in raising laughter at Winston Peters' expense however, as MPs voted to continue with the Order Paper, rejecting the proposed amendments. Business as usual should get underway by the end of next week.

For more information on the formalities surrounding the opening of Parliament, visit; http://www.clerk.parliament.govt.nz/NR/rdonlyres/A4F2FA15-FCB9-46E3-A2A4-9 C15DACACD86/14745/ParliamentGeneralElection1.pdf

(To view .PDF's you will need to download and install Adobe Reader: http://www.adobe.com/products/acrobat/readstep2.html)

Local government under the microscope

An understanding of the importance of local communities has been growing in New Zealand over the last few years.

Last month, the Planning Under Cooperative Mandates (PUCM) research programme released a discussion paper on local government reform in New Zealand. The paper looks at the reasons for reform and the most significant influences on the objectives of the Local Government Act 2002. The 2002 Act is different from previous local government legislation because it gives local authorities greater power to respond to community needs. It also gives them the responsibility of promoting the social, economic, environmental and cultural well-being of local communities.

Local authorities, like city, district and regional councils, are part of the institutions of civil society that mediate the relationship between the citizen and central government.

The discussion paper examines the role of local government in consulting with communities, and how this introduces a model of participatory democracy into local government where citizens are invited to participate at various points in decision-making. The intention is to 'reconnect' communities with government, to give them a stake in governance, because of a perceived failure of central government to be responsive to local needs.

Although participatory democracy can encourage citizen responsibility, the danger is that consultation can become an end in itself. It can lead to more bureaucracy which can, ironically, squeeze out the interests of local communities. This shows the importance of having representatives who can represent the wishes of the people who have elected them in government. Understanding the importance of both representation and participation is vital to a strong civil society.

Maxim Institute researcher Steve Thomas was co-author of the discussion paper, which can be read at: http://www.waikato.ac.nz/igci/pucm/Whats%20new.htm

The new powerful

The "Listener" recently released its 2005 Power List. According to the selection panel the top five most powerful New Zealanders are: Prime Minister Helen Clark, Leader of the Opposition Dr Don Brash, Deputy Prime Minister Dr Michael Cullen, Reserve Bank Governor Dr Alan Bollard and Academy Award winning film director Peter Jackson. The "Listener" defines power as, "The ability to influence and shape the lives, lifestyles and values of New Zealanders this year." ("New Zealand Listener" November 12-18 2005)

The top 50 powerful people come from various arenas, including; the media, business, politics, entertainment, law and sport. Undoubtedly, the people on the 2005 Power List are having a significant impact on New Zealanders, but in all the discussion about the power these individuals have, the issue of authority has hardly rated a mention.

In essence, one with authority has legitimate power over people, including both the right and means to coerce. Whilst all the people on the list are powerful because they are influential, how many are powerful because they have authority? Some have gained influence through money; others through the strength of their personality or skills, whilst a few have been given the privilege of the authority of office.

However these 50 people gained their influence, many will continue to shape "the lives, lifestyles and values of New Zealanders..." The question is; do they take their responsibility seriously, and what kind of New Zealand are they shaping?

THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK - Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965)

The price of greatness is responsibility.


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