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Maxim Institute - real issues - No 186

Maxim Institute - real issues - No 186

Risky business

The checks and balances of MMP

Remembering the volunteers

Parliament loses opportunity to protect marriage

Risky business The government could be accused of blindness to the inherent incompatibility of its economic and social policies, with what it says it wants. A report released by the New Zealand Institute this week, Dancing with the stars?, points out that exports are currently only 29 percent of New Zealand's Gross Domestic Product (GDP). This is well below international standards, even for other small countries. The Institute says we will have to substantially lift our game if we are to maintain economic growth.

In response, government minister Trevor Mallard has said one of the reasons for this problem is that New Zealand has too few risk takers. Herein lies the government's blindness. The primary risk takers are entrepreneurs. And entrepreneurs only tend to take risks when a good financial return is foreseeable. There is little incentive to take risks if their gains are taxed or regulated too heavily.

New Zealand is not the best environment for a risk taking entrepreneur, let alone a successful one. Wealth is often envied and redistributed in the name of fairness. In reality, such redistributive policies discourage those who do the most for our economy: the small business owners and the self-employed, more than they do the super-rich. These small scale "capitalists" are the prime risk takers Mr. Mallard says we need more of.

If New Zealand wants more successful entrepreneurs to contribute to the economy, the government must acknowledge that its policies can either encourage or discourage risk taking.

The checks and balances of MMP Most people are probably aware of the carbon tax, recently proposed by the Labour-led government. Many people are probably not aware however, of how proposed government policy like this, might be forced back to the drawing board because of MMP.

In order to secure a majority of votes on matters of confidence and supply, the Labour-led government has sought the support of New Zealand First and United Future. However, the government's formal agreements with these parties, does not require support on all matters. Therefore, it is entirely conceivable that on some issues, the government will not have enough support to successfully pass their proposed legislation. This may soon be seen with the carbon tax which as proposed, would increase taxes on petrol, diesel and public transport, with the goal of discouraging carbon emissions in New Zealand.

Presently the government has the support of the Greens, giving them a total of 57 votes in favour of such a Bill. Conversely, National, United Future, and Act are opposed to the move (53 votes). The two unknowns are the Maori Party which, as an opposition party, could well be expected to vote against the government, and New Zealand First, which has consistently indicated its opposition to a carbon tax.

If however the Maori Party and New Zealand First choose to oppose the proposed carbon tax, the government would be unable to rally enough support to pass the legislation. In such a case as this, MMP could be seen to successfully bring checks and balances upon the legislative abilities of government.

In cases where there may not be a clear majority, the government may be forced to consider a Bill more carefully before introducing it. They might need to make concessions when drafting the Bill in order to win the support of parties outside of government. This effectively slows down the law-making process, encouraging consensus politics and more considered legislation which could be more acceptable to most New Zealanders. The efficacy of MMP will continue to be considered as we determine the implications of such issues.

Remembering the volunteers The Minister for the Voluntary Sector, Hon. Winnie Laban, paid tribute on Monday to the thousands of ordinary Kiwis who give of their time to make New Zealand's communities better. In a statement marking International Volunteers Day, Mrs. Laban said that voluntary work "provides great opportunities to build strong, mutually enriching and sustainable relationships for all New Zealanders." She points out that over a million New Zealanders contribute some form of voluntary work to their communities, strengthening immeasurably the fabric of our common life, and she is right.

Volunteers are a vital part of civil society. They provide support, help, care and compassion to their neighbours and communities. It is good to see the government recognise that while the state can do some things well, it cannot replace the human contact and interaction that volunteers provide.

>From firefighters and ambulance men, to Scout and church workers, volunteers contribute millions of dollars to the economy in unpaid labour. Through the care and sweat they give to their communities, they strengthen the bonds which hold us together and remind us that we all need one another. Volunteers are, in many cases, the foot soldiers of compassion, the first to care for the welfare of their neighbours.

In a period in which volunteerism is declining, at cost to the taxpayer, it is important that all of us take time to thank those volunteers whose sacrifices enrich our lives, and seek out ways to volunteer our own time and skills to help others. As Mrs. Laban remarks, volunteers make the Kiwi way of life safer, healthier and happier. We salute them all.

IN THE NEWS Parliament loses opportunity to protect marriage

Yesterday, Parliament voted 73-47 to defeat the Marriage (Gender Clarification) Bill that would have defined in legislation that marriage is between one man and one woman. This Bill would have sent a clear message that the traditional definition of marriage is valued and protected in this country.

Parties treated the vote as a conscience issue, although there were some clear voting patterns. All Labour MPs, except one voted against the Bill; National MPs were split 36 in favour of the Bill and 12 opposed; New Zealand First were split, five in favour and two opposed; Jim Anderton, the Green and Maori MPs opposed the Bill; and all United Future MPs and both Act MPs voted in support of the legislation.

Many MPs were convinced by the argument that this legislation is unnecessary because marriage is already defined in our courts as a union between one man and one woman. Whilst technically true, this argument missed the real need for and importance of this Bill.

When similar legislation was passed in Australia last August, the Attorney General, Mr. Peter Ruddock stated it this way: "The bill is necessary because there is significant community concern about the possible erosion of the institution of marriage...The government has consistently reiterated the fundamental importance of the place of marriage in our society. It is a central and fundamental institution. It is vital to the stability of our society and provides the best environment for the raising of children."

This was an opportunity for our Parliament show its support for the place of marriage in New Zealand - an opportunity sadly lost.

TALKING POINT Always remember that hindsight is the best insight to foresight.

Irish toast

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