Sunday, February 27, 2011

Michael Coote: A mockery of democratic processes

First published in The National Business Review, February 25, 2011: The Maori Party is going to miss Hone Harawira, long an independent MP anyway. Mr Harawira’s virtue lies in making cunning, hardened Maori racists like Pita Sharples appear moderate and reasonable in their relentless campaign to undermine New Zealand’s liberal democracy and its core principle of legal equality between persons.

Without the Harawira figleaf, we will get the naked lunch – so to speak - from the Maori Party and it won’t make pretty eating.

Already with the ill-conceived Marine and Coastal Area (Takutai Moana) Bill, the rump of the Maori Party will vote for enactment only in order to come back and renegotiate it later, with particular emphasis on diluting ever further the qualifying criteria for Maori tribes to gain customary title to vast swathes of the foreshore and seabed.

Karl du Fresne: Reassuring voices in the night

First published Wednesday 23rd Feb: The mainstream media cop a fair old pasting, but they come into their own at times of crisis. This has been borne out in over the past 24 hours, when we have seen the much-derided MSM at their best.

Television New Zealand, whose treatment of the news so often fills me with despair, went a long way toward redeeming itself with its coverage of the latest Christchurch calamity. Some of its pretty young women reporters – whom I’ve maligned in the past, suggesting they were recruited more for their looks than their ability – did a superb job. Could it be that, confronted with a truly dramatic breaking news event that forced them to fall back on their wits, they forgot (or ignored) the lessons from their expensive American coaches and simply got on with the job of telling the story? There was no time for artifice, no slick stage-managing of stories. This was the journalistic equivalent of bareback riding.

David Round: Multiculturalism and Diversity - part 6

You may remember HART (Halt All Racist Tours), prominent when rugby tours to and from South Africa much exercised the nation. One of its later concerns, before it eventually faded away, was the immigration of white people to New Zealand from South Africa, trying to escape their native land before it became, as all too surely it is slowly becoming, another Zimbabwe. HART was deeply concerned that some South African immigrants might be ~ oh unspeakable horror ~ white supremacists, and proposed that before New Zealand accept any South African immigrants we should examine them on their racial attitudes, their knowledge of the Treaty of Waitangi, and so forth.

Allan Peachey: Protecting Democracy

To continue the theme of the last edition, I want to share with you my thoughts from reading one of the books that the Parliamentary Library sourced for me. It was called “The Age of American Unreason: Dumbing Down and the Future of Democracy” by Susan Jacoby.

Jacoby quotes President Eisenhower in 1954 as saying that an intellectual is “a man who takes more words than are necessary to tell more than he knows”. I bet that upset a few people at the time? Or did it?

Sunday, February 20, 2011

David Round: Multiculturalism and Diversity - part 5

I finished last time by mentioning a tolerant civilised young person whose belief in tolerance prevented her even from criticising Hitler. In a couple of senses, anyway, this is not at all an uncommon position; it could even be argued that it is the common one among postmodernist defenders of diversity. I do not mean by this that it is common for post-modern intellectuals to defend Hitler. Quite the contrary ~ Hitler and the Nazis are very regularly, indeed prominently, the subject of condemnation. (Our student was not actually defending Hitler either, of course, merely saying that she did not feel entitled to condemn him.)

Karl du Fresne: Curmudgeon Column

PETER FREEDOM, who boasted last week of travelling the world on his unemployment benefit, isn’t the only person to make a mockery of the benefits system.Buried in a recent newspaper report about Ronald Terrence Brown, a career criminal jailed for drug offences, was the revelation that he had been on unemployment and sickness benefits for about 20 years.

Brown, 65, was part-owner of a bar in Auckland’s Karangahape Rd and owned six vehicles, including BMWs and a Porsche. He was involved in a ring that dealt in drugs worth millions, and all the while he was bludging off the taxpayer – just like former Christchurch gang leader Darryl Harris, who infamously claimed the sickness benefit for 26 years and even got a special-needs grant to buy tyres for his 2007 Chrysler 300C (a classic “gangsta” car – I bet it was painted black).

Allan Peachey: The Joy of Reading

I have just had a splendid summer reading. In fact for me being in Wellington for so much of the year is only made bearable by the access that I have, as an MP, to the General Assembly Library. It is my favourite place in the parliamentary complex. I doubt that any MP makes more use of it than I do, not only for research, but also for access to all of the books that I want to read in a year. I have already compiled the list of books that I want to read this year and the Library has already begun to source them for me. After all, a bloke has to keep his mind alert during those long dreary hours that a MP is required to sit in the Chamber while socialist drivel fills the air. And a cynic might say “and not from just one party either!”

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Ron Smith: Egypt and Bahrain

In attempting to understand what is happening and what might happen next, there are a number of important distinctions to appreciate in the social and political situation in these two countries and in the apparent demands of the protestors in each case.

Most obviously, it needs to be noted that the ruling elite in Bahrain is Sunni and comprises less than a third of the population. Thus, the replacement of the present autocracy by a democratically-elected, representative system of government will, inevitably, result in a Shiite majority government. The Sunnis, who have always been in power (and profited mightily from it), will never be in power again. So they have a very powerful reason for not conceding to the protestors in the street. In the absence of very strong countervailing considerations, we might therefore expect a continuation of the present pattern of very strong repression.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Michael Bassett: Len Brown and Maori

Wednesday's report that the new Auckland Council had pushed through a budget of $3.43 million to fund an unelected Maori Statutory Board for Auckland is a disgrace. Len Brown and his Council should hang their heads in shame. So, too, should Rodney Hide and John Key who let it happen, despite earlier protestations that there would not be separate racial representation on the Auckland Council.

The new council's allocation of ratepayers' money to unelected people to play games with, engaging and reporting to the Maori Community, researching the well-being of Maori when 101 other publicly-funded agencies are doing the same, and with nearly $1 million allocated for staff costs that aren't explained, brings shame on every councillor who was party to the rushed decision.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

David Round: Multiculturalism and Diversity - part 4

Philosophies ~ the sort of philosophies we read about in textbooks of philosophy and political science ~ express the feelings of their age. We tend to think of philosophical ideas as being very rarefied and other-worldly ~ that is the way they are often expressed, and certainly they may well so appear to later centuries, when we may well have lost sight of the big political and social issues of the day. But at the time, they express ~ often in elevated, complex and obscure language, to be sure ~ the ideas of their time.

Tom Johnson: Waitangi Day Sedition

It is very difficult as a European New Zealander to have any feeling of national pride or even a sense of identity on Waitangi day, which is in direct contrast with Aussies across the ditch and their festivities on Australia Day. With the Maori “Tino rangatiratanga flag” at the masthead, a symbol of separatism and Maori sovereignty, the almost inevitable demonstrations, and then a seditious call for revolution as the ultimate solution for Maori grievances, Waitangi Day this year was little different to all its predecessors. I couldn’t help but reflect on how different that was from watching the New Zealand Sevens team demolish England in the final of the Sevens in Wellington the previous day. That did give me a sense of pride in New Zealand and our traditions of sporting achievement in rugby our national game. Despite the team being predominantly Polynesian, a reflection on the realities of New Zealand’s changing demographics there was still a commonality of identity and a sense of pride in achievement that we could all share.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Ron Smith: Egyptian Revolution: where to from here

There has been some very optimistic, and, I think, rather na├»ve speculation about the likely consequences of recent events in the Middle East, and, notably, Egypt. Analogy with the ‘velvet revolution’ of 1989, is particularly misleading. Prospects for the emergence of secular, democratic (‘western-like’) states in Tunisia, Egypt, Jordan, Syria, etc., are vanishingly small, with a range of other possibilities being much more likely.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Karl du Fresne: How will history judge John Key?

I WONDER how history will judge John Key. On the strength of his performance so far, I think it might assess him quite harshly. Historians may look back on these years as a time when an economically feeble, socially dysfunctional New Zealand needed bold leadership, but instead had a prime minister who was content to tread water.

David Round: Multiculturalism and Diversity - part 3

As I explained last week, our belief that our society can be ‘multicultural’ while continuing to be run more or less as it is now reveals a very shallow understanding of what culture actually is. Culture is not just curries and caftans. Culture is the way we actually live. And how one lives arises out of the circumstances of ones time and place. It arises out of the land one inhabits ~ its climate, its plants and animals, the foods and clothing that one can grow there and that one needs there; it arises out of climate, and history, out of religion and race, economic and social organisation and everything. And that being so, it is hardly possible to transplant a culture.

Mike Butler: Moving on from Waitangi Day

I awoke late on this year’s steamy hot Waitangi Day to hear a kid over the back fence rehearsing a haka, quietly, presumably to prepare for kapa haka at some local festival. The so-called national day has become a Maori culture day. No one complains about a holiday, but non-Maori New Zealanders don’t participate, for whatever reason. Every year there is some misguided protest by some astonishingly ignorant zealot, earnestly recorded and broadcast to the nation.

Mike Butler: The savings group that promotes government spending

Has anyone else spotted the self-defeating recommendations in this week’s Savings Working Group report, “Saving New Zealand: Reducing Vulnerabilities & Barriers to Growth & Prosperity”?

With full drama, the report asserts that in a financial sense “it’s as if we are standing on top of a cliff that may collapse dramatically, or crumble slowly.” The financial crumbling cliff that the savings working group describes is the level of national indebtedness. With net foreign liabilities at 85 per cent of gross domestic product, New Zealand has borrowed too much overseas. The working group says that our debt level is similar to the troubled countries of Europe, and notes that Australia has net foreign liabilities of 58 per cent.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Mike Butler: U.S. bailout rort uncovered

For those who are sceptical of the Obama administration’s bailout of some United States banks, here is a snapshot of some of the rorting that is going on within that bailout. Forbidden Knowledge TV set out “A Clear Explanation of Naked Banksterism” as a video clip and a transcript, which I reproduce here, with acronyms deciphered and financial institutions described: