At first glance
eventual loss of so many Otago institutions such as the
Invermay research facility and Hillside work
shops (where railway wagons were built) has little to do with the way we elect our political representatives to
Parliament. (It actually has a lot to do with the
fact that only railway wagons were built there)
In fact it has everything to do with our electoral system allowing political parties to appoint – not our, but
representatives. The fault lies directly with the
Political Party system of governance of this country. National, Labour, Greens,
NZ First etc. all exercise total control of who they
will accept into Parliament and not the
voters. The voters elect the parties
but the MPs are chosen by the party.
If all MPs were elected as independent members of Parliament (as
they once were) it is dollars to doughnuts that the Invermay research centre would not be impacted as
the Government would need the support and votes of the
Otago representatives to support and pass any legislation especially where the ayes and noes are finely balanced as they are with this Parliament. It goes without
saying that all the current opposition
party/s MPs will describe the loss
of any work place or institution as an outrageously short sighed decision taken
by those who cannot be trusted to open or close a corner dairy. It’s the opposition’s job to condemn any closures, anywhere,
and for any reason. This is a result of the
adversarial system of governance within the
New Zealand Parliament.
The MP must always weigh up
the consequences of voting against or even speaking
out against their party’s policy
which impacts on their regions
future for fear of loosing (a) their
current list position within the
party and worse (b) the nomination
for their respective seats prior to the 2014 general election. The political party
machines of all hues take a very dim view of those MPs with the temerity to publicly challenge their party’s position on behalf of their constituents. Those with a list position with
National of 40 or more are in real danger of falling off the
list completely which may not necessarily be a bad thing for the regions influence in .
Some years ago a few MPs did speak out as Wellington their
conscience dictated and were summarily dismissed to the
back bench or were to remain persona non grata. The names of Derek Quigley, John A Lee, Marilyn Waring, Mike Minogue, and Norman
Jones conjure up images of strong minded people who chose to sacrifice their Parliamentary careers to uphold their duty to their
constituents over their obligations
to their party. They (collectively)
would have also made a damned fine cabinet.
Political parties promote form over substance in Parliamentary debates which are often not very relevant to everyday life in NZ yet nothing changes - even under MMP.
MMP was meant to be a game changer to our Parliamentary system yet all that has happened is that now seven party leaders get to state
their opinions versus only two prior to MMP. Their respective
teams dutifully follow the leader.
Just how an MMP Parliament with its supposed diversity of opinion could have appropriated $34 million for a boat race between four contestants whose total worth rivals some countries total income or GDP - is worthy of reflection. Surely a couple of independently minded Government MPs could have discovered that
the Americas Cup is the
province of the super wealthy who
probably don’t need a subsidy from somebody in NZ earning $15 dollars per hour.
The vote on
“more pokies for a Convention Centre bill” in is ano Auckland ther
case in point. Social issues such as liquor and gaming laws, abortion,
prostitution etc are traditionally a conscience vote. What happened with the casino deal was that
all National Party MPs suddenly but temporarily discovered Sky
City they all had exactly the
same conscience as the Prime
Minister during the reading of the bill. Had Parliament been full of independent
MPs - that bill was likely never to have passed the
first reading. Has the question ever
been asked as to what exactly is wrong with MPs obedience to conscience over their affiliation to any given party?
The Labour Party has a rule that says
their MPs cannot vote against a caucus decision; so
out with independence of thought, and in with dependence on the leader’s thoughts.
A Parliament of independent MPs is likely to vote down a GCSB type bill by a huge majority whereas under
the current system it will pass by one vote. All
that is needed to stop that bill is one independently minded MP from National to
say no, yet there appears to be none.
Of course one time honoured method of a Government controlling their caucus is to appoint as many Ministers outside
cabinet as is humanly possible. Racing, Auckland Affairs, Women’s Affairs,
Consumer Affairs etc.
Ms Jacqui Dean
current MP for Waitaki needs only to make some independent and grumpy noises
about the GCSB bill and being forty
something on the party list in the same breath - for something to happen. I’m sure it will very rapidly cross the Prime Ministers mind that a Minister for Wilding
Pine control has real merit and who better than a grumpy MP from Otago. That’s
how our current Parliamentary system works where independence of thought and
action is not highly valued whereas compliance with the
view that all MPs are in Parliament thanks only to their
respective party’s selection process - is entirely the
I’m not at all sure where
the poor old voters fit in this wonderful world of Political
Party domination through MMP. We might just as well revert back to “first past the post” system.
I became an MP due entirely to
the whims of the
very party process which I now challenge.
above comes back to the question as
to whe ther the
present system delivers effective regional representation in Parliament.
Does Otago need independent representatives in Parliament? Absolutely we do, and with 2014 looming maybe we should consider telling
the resident foxes to hand
back the keys to the
hen house. Wellington
Readers may be interested to learn that one week after I wrote this article Ms Jacqui Dean (42 on Nationals list) was appointed as a private secretary to both
PM and the Minister of Local
Government - the appointment of a Minister for Wilding
Pine control is clearly a step too far even for the