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Wednesday, March 30, 2005

The power of Parliament

PART I

This issue really riles me up.

OK, not as much as the blonde at the next table over, loudly insisting on her cellphone that her friend 'drive parallel to the Sky Tower' to find the restaurant we are sitting in.

But mad nethertheless.

Whenever someone publicly criticises New Zealand society , they are often set upon by the very politicians who are meant to pass the laws which protect our future. So brow-beaten are many kiwis that few people bother to utter any major criticism in a public forum, less they be accused of hating New Zealand and encouraged to 'bugger off' overseas. Even people who are more intellectually open to the failings of our country will often avoid commenting publicly on the issues, instead preferring to cede public forums to their ideological enemies to avoid a confrontation. Criticism is limited to private conversations between friends, or the remarks of a few brave columnists, usually hiding behind a joke or other literary camouflage.

Witness the slurs uttered against Don Brash when he suggested paying solo parents not to work is probably a bad idea, and suggested practical ways of decreasing that welfare dependency. Few people would agree that financially rewarding parents who raise children out of the two-parent family structure is a good thing. Yet the man who openly voiced that doubt is attacked as 'hating' beneficiaries, as if promoting policies to decrease people on the DPB is evidence of ethnic hatred worthy of the Ku Klux Klan. I call this use of the word 'hate' thought-thuggery, but Orwell called it doublespeak. The intent is to crudely shut down debate by competitors with new ideas, by making the language of those new ideas impermissible in a public forum.

Does this make kiwis a passive-aggressive people, second only to the English in our avoidance of public conflict? It's not like the cops are out there kicking the daylight out of anyone who dares confront the status quo. So why don't we care that our own Government focuses on supporting the losers of society, rather than encouraging the winners? Why do we not erupt in outrage at every corrupt practice revealed by our media and opposition MP's? In the USA the conservatives complain of a liberal media. Here in New Zealand it doesn't matter what insanity the media reveals, the populace remains docile and dormant - unless rugby is at stake.

I'll tell you what I think the problem is, and it goes back far in our history. It is partly shared with the English, but not with the Aussies or the Americans.

Its the all-eggs-in-one basket approach of the Westminster parliamentary system.

In our form of parliamentary Government, only one election every three years determines who has complete power over the country. There are no powerful regional Governments with their own ideas on how best to run public hospitals, fund schools or resource the Police. There is no independently elected House of Representatives, where the Representatives are told by their electorate they will be fired if they vote for the new petrol tax. There is no independently elected Chief Executive to keep the day-to-day running of our public services separate from the political parties who pass the laws. There is no constitution designed to clearly restrict the powers of Parliament, or outline the appropriate role for Government.

Under MMP, there is no restriction on who makes it into Parliament. Electorate votes are useless, and the political parties directly control who becomes an MP. How can the public hand a misbehaving MP a 'fail' grade? It can't. So long as that MP is on a party 'list', voters can only weigh the cons of punishing the miscreants political party versus the pros of ridding themselves of the MP.

There is in fact no check at all on the power of our Parliament.

New Zealanders know this, which is why we are so cynical about Government but still turn out in high numbers to elect it. After all, we still want to make sure the 'other buggers' don't get in. They're crazier than our lot.

Stay tuned for PART II.

Posted by Antarctic Lemur | 3/30/2005 05:25:00 PM

2 Comments:

Anonymous Simon said...

Well just on Don Brash I think he attacked not beneficiaries, although the claim was he did, but a system of government that says it can solve all of societies problems. A system that holds out it can provide for all obligations that used to be fulfilled by the family. That is a now core western belief, it’s embedded.

“Paying solo parents not to work is a bad idea” “Whatever happened to personal reasonability?”

These are radical things to say in NZ. To say, well the government not really up to it because as a result is the welfare state we have now. Brash is attacking core religious like beliefs that the whole Labor party and a good deal of the National party believe in. Hence the hysteria.

Not so sure on the parliamentary system except political parties in the west and in NZ for sure say give us your vote and we will take care of you. And generally the population not interested in the detail has in the past let them get on with it.

3/30/2005 10:25:00 PM  
Blogger Antarctic Lemur said...

My point is NZ has no other centre of power which can implement new ideas, and testing new ideas on a smaller scale is a good way of evolving good ideas for an entire country.

Instead we have only one power centre, which is free to seesaw between competing ideologies, with stability of Government and providing good service to the citizens a low priority.

Also there is no direct check on a Government which decides to implement radical ideas, without a mandate from the voters.

3/30/2005 10:47:00 PM  

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