Monday, May 29, 2023

Point of Order: Essay competition winner might opt for the money and surrender the bag.....

......but that would be to eschew a robust chat with MPs

As the general election approaches, the Association of Former Members of the Parliament of New Zealand has organised an essay competition to to foster democracy. Secondary school students are being challenged to identify the important elements of a successful democracy, explain their value and consider whether they can be improved – in New Zealand.

The association – chaired by former Ohariu MP and Cabinet Minister Peter Dunne – is made up of MPs who either have retired gracefully or been given the heave-ho at an election by disgruntled voters.

Holding elected representatives to account and getting rid of them at an election if they don’t do their job satisfactorily is a key component of a robust democracy. But this right has been taken away from Canterbury region voters.

The legislative process that resulted in Canterbury’s regional democratic structure being eroded is among many issues worth examining when the shortcomings of New Zealand’s democracy – and Treaty-brandishing politicians’ disinclination to defend it – are considered.

The association runs an essay competition every three years to increase young people’s understanding of how New Zealand’s democracy works and to encourage young people to engage in the political process.

The competition, which closes on 9 July this year, is open to Year 12 and 13 students.

The topic is “What are the important elements of a successful democracy in New Zealand? Why are they important, does New Zealand currently meet them, and can they be improved?”

Essays will be judged on originality, creativity and substance by an independent judging panel.

The essay must be the original work of the student and no more than 1500 words.

“Democracy underpins New Zealand’s political system,” says Dunne in a press statement announcing the competition.

“But what makes a successful democracy? Do we have the essential components? How could we make our democracy better?”

Secondary school students come to this issue with fresh minds and fresh ideas, Dunne contends.

“The recent debate on the voting age shows that young people are engaged and thinking about democracy. We want to encourage that interest and provide a way for it to be channelled.”

Readers who remember the quizzes compered by Selwyn Toogood will be delighted to learn that the prize-winner will take both the money – a $1,000 cash prize – and the bag.

The bag is is a trip to Parliament including:
  • A parliamentary tour
  • Seeing MPs in action in the Debating Chamber and in a Select Committee
  • A visit to the Parliamentary Library
  • Meeting MPs including the Speaker and former MPs
Hmm. There might be a temptation to take the money and suggest the bag be offered to someone else – the person who comes last, perhaps.

But wait.

The meeting with MPs might offer the opportunity to inquire about the democratic principles underpinning –
  • Majority parliamentary support for the Canterbury Regional Council (Ngāi Tahu Representation) Bill which guaranteed Ngāi Tahu representation and decision-making powers on the Canterbury regional council. Two councillors are appointed by the tribe with full voting rights to the council. This is an attractive precedent for other Māori tribes elsewhere around the country. Labour MP Tāmati Coffey has certainly drawn attention to the potential for Māori to be given electoral privileges elsewhere:
“Ngāi Tahu have opened the door. And for that reason, all of those iwi out there that are struggling with how representation works for them in their rohe, I hope that they’re understanding that this is a potential pathway,” he told Parliament.
  • The Rotorua District Council (Representation Arrangements) Bill, which would change local electoral rules and allow an equal number of Māori ward and general ward seats on the council. All Labour MPs supported it at its first reading but Attorney-General David Parker found it would breach the Bill of Rights Act because it discriminated against general roll voters. This prompted Labour to retract its support of the bill, sponsored by – guess who? – yep, the aforementioned Rotorua-based list MP Tamati Coffey, who also chaired the select committee overseeing its progress.
  • The Three Waters legislation, co-governance and the entrenchment row. It seems Cabinet agreed against entrenching provisions intended to protect water assets from being privatised. Nanaia Mahuta supported entrenchment, which usually requires a supermajority of 75 percent of MPs to be overthrown – but the bill she championed was passed by a majority of Parliamentarians with just a 60 per cent requirement. An embarrassed government had some hasty repair work to do.
Every MP who voted in support of the contentious entrenchment clause and the local body bills which give some citizens more rights than others should be made eligible at this year’s general election for immediate membership of the Association of Former Members of the Parliament of New Zealand.

There’s potential for other healthy conversations – with Labour’s Willie Jackson and Maori Party co-leaders, for example – about why the Treaty of Waitangi requires Maori citizens to be given superior rights to non-Maori citizens.

Oh – and let’s not forget the opportunity to chat with Mr Speaker.

Moving protesters on with sprinklers and loud music was Trevor Mallard’s way of trying to rid the lawn in front of Parliament Building of unruly demonstrators. Winning the essay competition will provide a chance to ask whether sprinklers will be turned on and music blasted to irritate protesters camped outside Parliament during future demonstrations.

And he might like to discuss the rules which have enabled Meka Whaitiri to engage in waka-jumping and remain an MP as an independent.

Point of Order is a blog focused on politics and the economy run by veteran newspaper reporters Bob Edlin and Ian Templeton


Robert Arthur said...

If only I had a year 12 or 13 son or daughter...
it will be a bold student who answers realistically. Winning with factual obseravtions would be the kiss of death on a CV for most modern positions.
Many years ago I had cause to observe secondary school participation in a compettion which involved preparing an OCR announcemnt speech. It brought home with a vengeance the absurdity of the typical glib utterances. A team of girls with the smooth articulate tongues typical of the species won. Reserve Bank staff are paid millions to contrive the same. I do not know if the competiton still runs. Maybe the absurd irony of it finally dawned.

Anonymous said...

‘A team of girls with the smooth articulate tongues typical of the species won’
Perhaps Robert Arthur can explain what he means by this? Prima facie it is the mouthings of a sexist old man who, by his own admission, supports violence as discipline - a clip over the ear or a beating with the cane.

Robert Arthur said...

For Anonymous 12.51. Life gets complicated when facts are interpreted as sexist or racist. At the age concerned, many boys can manage little more then grunts. Girls spend childhood chattering to their mums and the rest of the time to each other. In my observation young female lawyers far excel most of the males in smooth patter. Not all due to superior IQ.
As for punishment in schools, is total society now better off with the elevated crime which breeds from non discipline?

Anonymous said...

Robert Arthur - as a young woman of barely 18, having started my law degree in NZ in 1975 ( having been advised by a senior male lawyer of the time that girls don’t do law), been admitted to the bar five years later and practiced in commercial/business law until I retired 2.5 years ago (yes, I married, bred, post grad study and worked in multiple jurisdictions) I can assure you it was not about being smooth pattered, glib or superwoman or chatting with my mum (although she was an extraordinary groundbreaking woman).

It was about working incredibly hard, fighting to be heard (yes, I was a real lawyer with a law degree-only second class honours- and admitted in two jurisdictions ), proving I was more than a pretty face (porcelain doll was one description) and standing up to rascism ( I am proudly of Caucasian genetic heritage), bullying and in due course ageism, I agree with you life gets complicated when you know the facts.

For the record, I am disgusted by the latest proposals of NZ Law Society - it feels as if the efforts of the women in my generation for a fair profession are being trashed in favour of highly charged rascism and political manipulation. The Blob Factor.

As for discipline- was it fair to rap my uncle on the knuckles on his first day at school more than 80 years ago - a little boy who put his pencil in the wrong place? He never forgot it. And whilst I never got the strap, I can still feel the horror of the ‘naughty boys’ /‘stupid boys’ having the sh*t beaten out of them in front of the class at primary school and then being bellowed at if they dared cried. Sometimes, though less often, the corresponding girls got the same treatment. One went on to be a mass baby killer.

Oh, by the way, I went to a school that these days would be classified decile 10.

And fyi, I am 66.

And I am Anonymous. Why? Because while I believe passionately in being a member of the human race I am burnt out by my experience of life.

Am I happy - actually yes. I take great pride in my amazing next two generations of extraordinary young women and in my own achievements and in my husband.


Anonymous said...

Anonymous 12.51 Time to get over yourself. We all know that generally girls have better language skills than boys. Wokies will say that we can't say that...but we actually can. And because Robert did you made an ad hominem attack on him which shows you had no better position to make.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 8.07. I give up. You and you ilk win. I am just a dumb B***h.